The Soviet Union denounced the United States today for employing "crude military and political blackmail" against Iran. The attack came one day after the Kremlin endorsed the U.N. Security Council call that Tehran free its American hostages.
A strongly worded attack in the authoritative Communist Party newspaper Pravda implied that the United States took the hostage case before the United Nations and the World Court only as a cover for a military assault on Iran. It did not mention Moscow's vote supporting yesterday's U.N. call for immediate release of the hostages.
The Pravda article drew immediate fire in Washington, where State Department spokesman Hodding Carter called it "deplorable" and indicated that Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance took it up personally with Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin.
Carter said Vance and Dobrynin met to discuss Iran and other issues as the Soviet envoy prepared to return to Moscow for consultation. The spokesman called the Soviet position on the Iranian crisis "ambigious" and declared that "the Soviets can and should do more" to obtain the release of the U.S. hostages.
While the seizure of the U.S. Embassy "is not in keeping" with international law, Pravda said, the Tehran incident "cannot serve as a justification, much less a pretext for violation of sovereignty of an independent state."
Citing a report it attributed to The Washington Post that U.S. fighter bombers in the Persian Gulf "can strike with atomic bombs" at Iran's oilfield, Pravda also implied that Washington may be preparing a nuclear strike against Iran.
The Washington Post never mentioned any atomic or nuclear capability of U.S. forces in the Middle East.
The thrust of Pravda's comments, while obliquely justifying Moscow's support for diplomatic immunity in international forums, appears to be laying the framework for a more aggressively anti-American stance designed to curry favor with Iran's revolutionary rulers.
Never mentioning President Carter, Pravda pointed out that both Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and former U.N. ambassador Andrew Young in recent interviews had called the deposed shah of Iran a violent despot who had stolen billions from his country. Using their statements to bolster its own pro-Tehran rhetoric, Pravda asserted, "Therefore it is logical that the Iranian people demand the extradition of the shah to Iran so that he should be put on trial for his crimes."
While referring to "the White House" just once and avoiding more specific references, the newspaper aimed its charges at the administration.
Pravda alleged that the "U.S. itself admits" that American diplomatic initiatives "are aimed at convincing the U.S. and international public that the U.S. allegedly exhausted peaceful means of settling the conflict and has no other way out but to use force."
"Instead of showing an example of restraint, responsibility, and composure in the situation, instead of redoubling efforts to find a reasonable way out without giving rein to emotions, certain circles of the U.S. are making an ever greater stake on force."
While declaring it "inadmissible" that the embassy takeover should bring American military counteraction, Pravda did not make any threats of Soviet countermoves.