Jack Anderson, in his newspaper column for release Monday, asserts that President Carter "has expressed the intention to go ahead with" a plan to invade Iran.
The columnist says that "the tentative invasion date has been set suspiciously for mid-October. Sources say the president has assessed the political consequences and has concluded the invasion would be popular with the electorate . . . "
The Washington Post could find no substantiation for the assertions in Anderson's column, and therefore decided against running it.
Top civilian and military officials queried by The Post about Anderson's assertions denied them categorically.
"A startling, top-secret plan to invade Iran with powerful military force has been prepared for President Carter. The ostensible purpose is to rescue the hostages, but the operation would also exact military retribution. . . .
"I can also reveal that a 'cover plan' has been devised to disguise the true intent. As part of this cover plan, troops and supplies are already being mobilized in the Persian Gulf area and "training exercises' have been initiated. . . .
"My decision to expose the president's secret scheme," Anderson wrote, was influenced by the fact that The New York Times "sat nervously" on its information about the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 when exposure might have averted the disaster.
The Pentagon develops, on a regular basis, contingency plans for crises all over the world, including Iran.But the fact that the plans are developed does not necessarily mean they will be implemented.
Anderson said in an interview with The Post that he was asserting in his column that Carter had gone beyond such paper plans and had approved extensive preparations for direct military action against Iran. His column portrayed military action beyond that used in April in the unsuccessful effort to rescue the American hostages.
The Anderson column, as originally sent to subscribing newspapers, contained no response from the Carter administration. On Friday Anderson sent out this White House response under the heading of "Footnote":
"The suggestion that this or any other administration would start a war for political benefit is grotesque and totally irresponsible. The allegations made by Jack Anderson is absolutely false.
"With respect to the Persian Gulf, the president has said that we consider this region an area of vital interest. Therefore, while it is necessary to have plans for dealing with any external threats to countries of the region, we have no intention whatever of initiating any conflict ourselves, and neither the president nor any other responsible official has expressed any intention to take such an action, either in October or at any other time.
"Erroneous and totally irresponsible reports such as the Anderson column increase the danger to the American hostages in Iran, impede efforts to obtain their release peacefully and jeopardize American interest in the area generally."
Yesterday, Anderson said in a statement:
"I am not impressed by the White House denial. The White House press office issued similar denials before the April attempt to rescue the hostages. In fact, the president's top aide, Hamilton Jordan, even denied to the White House staff that a rescue mission was planned. Just two days after this denial, the rescue team took off for Iran."