White House Seeks to Mollify Arab Concern over Oil Embargo Remarks Made by Schlesinger

Defense Secretary James R, Schlesinger’s warnings that the United States “conceivably” might employ “military measures in response” to another Arab oil embargo engendered angry reactions in Egypt and Jordan which the White House sought to mollify today. Schlesinger, who emphasized that U.S. military action was “very improbable” made almost identical remarks on the subject of an Arab oil embargo in an interview published in U.S. News and World Report and on the ABC television “Issues and Answers” program yesterday.

White House Press Secretary Ron Nessen said today that Schlesinger had said no more than state the position outlined by President Ford last year that the use of force in the event of a new Mideast oil crisis was theoretical and could not even be considered unless the industrialized nations were at the point of “strangulation.” Ford also said at the time that the threat of a new oil embargo could create a stale mate in the Middle East peace process.

Schlesinger was quoted in the magazine interview as saying that “I think we are less likely to be tolerant of a renewed embargo than we were of the initial one in 1973″ during the Yom Kippur War. He said “I am not going to indicate any prospective reaction other than point out there are economic; political or conceivably military measures in response.”

On the television program he said, “Just precisely what measures we might take would remain for the circumstances, but I do not expect those circumstances to arise.” He added, “we regard” U.S. military action “as a very improbable event in the first place and it certainly is not an option that is attractive on its face, save in desperate circumstances.”

ARABS RAP SCHLESINGER

An Egyptian “government source” in Cairo described Schlesinger as saber-rattling, and a Jordanian newspaper in Amman said his remarks contributed to Israel’s “arrogance,” The White House response did not go beyond the assertion that Schlesinger was simply stating what Ford had said months ago; But there was apparent concern in official circles here that the Defense Secretary’s remarks could affect the meeting between President Ford and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in Salzburg, Austria June 1-2.

Ford himself said in a recent nationwide foreign policy address that another Arab-Israeli war would almost certainly lead to a new Arab oil embargo but he did not disclose what action if any the U.S. would take in such a situation.

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