WE CAN ASSUME the Joint Chiefs and National Security Council have shelved the nuclear option for Iran because the possible consequences are simply to awful to contemplate. Not many would argue with that.

But I have a proposal that is admittedly unspeakable, yet carries no risk of a superpower showdown. It would break the hostage deadlock wide open in a twinkling.

What we do is hit Tehran with wave upon wave of pigs. We do not use the Marines or the 82nd Airborne but thousands and thousands of big, snorting, aggressive Iowa pokers. If the ayatollah an his Islamic militants want to play by the rules of the 14th century, as they read those rules, then we must find a way to beat them with their own dogman, and this is it.

The pig is the answer because, to a Moslem, it is the filthiest creature on earth. Dogs are pretty bad but pigs are worst of all. The Arabic word is najes , meaning "unclean," but it really means more than that. It is such a distasteful kind of "unclean" that it might be thought of as the vilest blend of the Yiddish trayf and the common American street term, "ptui!"

The point is that pigs are terribly offensive to Moslems, and while we believe in this country in respect for the religious beliefs of others, that is not the way they do things in the Islamic republic. None of the usual rules apply, as they have shown by imprisoning our people and carrying out their garbage in our flag.

Put aside, then, any qualms about using their religion as a weapon. Imagine instead thousands of pigs running loose in the streets of Tehran, and delight in the vision of those chanting mobs swept by panic and terror without a single shot being fired. They would have to run, for their souls if not their lives, because a Moslem cannot touch a pig.

And if that should happen, the Moslem must drop everything and hurry to the nearest bath. After a thorough scrubbing, the devout must then do a lot of praying and hope the purifying takes.

It's a good bet an airdrop of several thousand pigs would keep the baths and mosques of Tehran full to capacity for days, perhaps weeks. The mullahs and the Revolutionary Council would, of course, have to give at least part of their attention to getting rid of the pigs.

Who would take charge of the roundup? We have occasional traffic accidents invoving truckloads of pigs, accompanied always by semi-humorous accounts of how much trouble the high-way patrol or sheriff's deputies had recapturing the beasts. We can only guess how much more difficult it would be for the ayatollah's militants, who are well versed in the dogman of Marx and the PLO but know nothing of pigs -- except that fooling around with them may bring them down direct punishment from God.

The Iowa Pork Producers Association has suggested that male boars, 2 to 2 1/2 years old, are at their most aggressive. They have tusks at that age. They weight in at 300 pounds each.

I'm sure the parachute experts could work up some kind of impact-release harness. Then the Air Force could load, for starters, half a dozen C130s. That would give a first-strike capability of perhaps 2,000 pigs, or a few hundred more if no consideration is given to their in-flight comfort. It might be better to cram them in, on the assumption, drawn from a lot of air travel with humans, that that would make them even meaner by the time they reached their destination.

A throttled-down low-level attack would be best, hitting Tehran just before first flight, at the hour of the morning prayer. Can you imagine the pandemonium? The screams of terror and outrage would in a matter of minutes empty the streets, maybe the entire city.

I asked an Islamic expert, a theologian, what would happen if, in that mob scene outside the Tehran embassy, a truckload of pigs had an accident and the animals ran loose.

"It couldn't happen," he said, with the barely concealed patience of a teacher explaining to a slow learner. "There are no pigs." But if someone brought in the pigs, I persisted, and somehow they got loose in that crowd. What would happen? Suddenly he knew he was looking into the face of evil and he was appaled.

"That is a truly awful suggestion," he said. And I knew I was on the right track.

There are, to be sure, practical and technical objections. I am convinced they can be satisfied.

Take the recent order putting the Iranian armed forces on alert. Transport aircraft, you may say, would have no chance of getting through. Thanks to our arms sales, Iran has ultra-modern equipment. True enough, but without the constant assistance of U.S. technicians, all of whom are long gone, the Iranian army has not even been able to keep its Ford and GMC trucks running. Does anyone believe the radar works? Or the jet fighters? So much for the military argument.

Then there are the protests of animal lovers who envision herds of innocent Iowa swine killed or maimed in the parachute drop. Some no doubt would become casualties. But that happens when people are parachuted, too, and if we can accept the loss rate for humans, we can take it for pigs.

The beauty of this plan is that no human lives would be at risk, and what few pigs might be killed in the fall through chute failure or other malfunctions would give the Moslems the considerable added grief of cleaning up the mess. Would they have to condemn whole streets or buildings? Tear down the structures or tear up the paving and start all over? Something like that, surely, if they believe the literal teachings pressed upon them by the ayatollah.

To keep him busy, there could be a special drop on the holy city of Qom. A few hundred pigs in the courtyard of Khomeini's headquarters ought to guarantee an uproar. And if we want to hit the oil fields, too, a landing by sea on Kargh Island, in the Persian Gulf, would be a cinch. That would let the Navy in on the action -- thus, in one quick move, shutting down Iran's largest source of income and heading off interservice jealously.

We might later consider similar action in Libya and perhaps Pakistan, but I shall leave the details to others. Having offered the plan, and it is ingenious even on sober second thought, I must prepare now for the Iowa Pork Producers Association annual meeting in Sioux City. They may want to honor me as Man of the Year or something of the sort. Then, of course, there is the Nobel Prize, since the militants surely would beg for peace. I hope it will not be necessary to choose but if it comes to that, I know something about Sioux City and I've never been to Oslo. The choice would be as easy as hitting them with swine in the first place.