Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan said today that the alternatives available to the United States in Iran do not include direct military action to free the hostages.
At a press conference here, Reagan said he realizes it would be militarily impossible to conduct an "Entebbe-like raid" that would free the Americans being held hostage in the U.S. Embassy. He said he understood that such an operation would like cost the lives of the hostages.
But Reagan, in renewed sharp criticism of the Carter administration on the Iranian issue, said there were many options available to put pressure on Iran which the president had refused to take. Among those he said were embargoes of food and oil to Iran and a naval blockade.
"I'm not a jingo thinking of pushing the war button when it wouldn't do any good," Reagan said. "But this administration has dillied and dallied for five months now . . ."
Reagan has said repeatedly on the campaign trail that everything the administration has done to free the hostages could have been done within the first 48 to 72 hours after their capture. He has said that if diplomatic efforts failed during this period, the United States should then have privately given Iran a deadline for freeing the hostages and told the Iranian government that "a very unpleasant action" would occur if the deadline was not met.
However, Reagan repeatedly has refused to say what this action would be on the grounds that only the president would know the full range of alternatives to make such a decision. Reporters have been pressing him for details of what he would do, and even some of Reagan's advisers have acknowledged privately that he has been unspecific on the issue.
When the issue arose today, Reagan seemed far readier than in the past to assure he was not talking about military intervention in Iran.
Reagan said the administration appeared to have no plan to free the hostages and was now "waiting for a miracle to happen before the November election."