Egyptian President Anwar Sadat has offered to let his country serve as a haven for such sensitive Iranian weaponry as the F14 fighters already delivered to the shah of Iran by the United States, administration sources said yesterday.
Sadat's offer, made during his recent meeting with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, is part of the Egyptian leader's effort to play a larger role in stabilizing the situation in the Mideast, according to administration officials.
But they added that F14s sent to Egypt, even just for safekeeping, might alarm the Israelis. Carter administration officials are thus hoping that no emergency flyout of the 77 F14s in Iran will be necessary.
The F14s in Iran are armed with sophisticated Phoenix missiles and equipped with highly secret gear that, according to military experts, would be an intelligence coup if obtained by the Soviets. The Central Intelligence Agency already has dismantled much of its sensitive equipment in Iran, putting some of it in more secure areas than the northern border region and readying other gear for speedy evacuation.
Air Force Gen. David C. Jones, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview yesterday that he thinks the military equipment the United States has delivered to Iran "is secure."
The general said Iran incurred obligations he declined to disclose to protect sensitive equipment purchased from the United States. "I have confidence in the integrity of the Iranian military," Jones said.
Asked if it were true that the bottom line is to destroy certain military equipment if it is in danger of falling into unfriendly hands, Jones refused to discuss contingency planning.
The general thrust of Jones' remarks about the Iranian military was that it has held together remarkably well "under difficult circumstances" and "has been unified at the top in strong support of the legal government."
Pentagon and State Department intelligence officials have reported that there has been no evidence that the Soviets are making any military moves to exploit the crisis in Iran.
Jones said the best medicine for Iran right now would be to "get the economy going again." Once-wealthy Iran has run so short of money that it has told U.S. embassy officials in Tehran that it will have to cancel from $7 billion to $9 billion of the $12 billion. in U.S. weaponry it has on order.
Without those and other economy measures, Iranian officials have told the U.S. embassy, Iran soon will not be able to pay its force of almost 500,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen.
Looking beyond Iran specifically, Jones said that much of the Third World "is a seedbed for turmoil" as leaders struggle with the problems stemming from the rising expectations of populations in an era of limited natural resources, like oil.
Conceding that the U.S. military establishment of some 2 million men under arms cannot by itself provide diplomatic leverage for the United States in many Third World countries, Jones said the evidence of this power is still essential.
"We are still the most influential nation in the world," Jones said, not only because of military power but also because other countries look to the United States for economic and technological help.
For example, he said, "the greatest problem in Turkey right now is the economic one." Military and economic power, he said, must be combined into "an integrated program" for the United States to exert its influence effectively.
"We're in a transitional period in this world of ours," Jones said, at a time the American people seem to be moving away from the "never again" mood instilled by the Vietnam experience.
"The tendency to withdraw from the world, which pervaded much of our country" after Vietnam "has leveled off," Jones contended. There is a growing recognition, he said, "that our interests beyond our shores are crucial."