223. Message From President Carter to Japanese Prime Minister Ohira1

WH30387. Please deliver the following message to Prime Minister Ohira at the earliest opportunity:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

During the past 150 days that our diplomats have been held hostage in Iran, I have valued your support and advice. The actions that your country has implemented have helped to isolate Iran politically and to bring home to the Iranian leadership the high costs of their continued violation of international law. Notwithstanding the efforts that all of us have made, Iran continues to affront world opinion and has made no move towards release of our people or of improvement in their condition. Because of Iranian intransigence and the suffering of the captives, I have come to the conclusion that the time has come for stronger measures. Unless Iran moves before Monday2 to show its goodwill and willingness to resolve the crisis by transferring the hostages to government control and improving their condition of detention, I will order the following additional measures:

—Implementation of formal economic sanctions against Iran as provided for in the UN Resolution;3

—A compilation by the Treasury Department of all claims against Iran, with the suggestion that we may move unilaterally to settle those claims out of blocked assets;

—The expulsion of all Iranian diplomatic and consular officers from the U.S.

We continue to need your active support and assistance. As a first step, it would be valuable if you would communicate now with President Bani-Sadr so that he might clearly understand the seriousness of the present moment and the consequences that will flow from continued Iranian intransigence.

The U.S. strongly hopes that you and our other close friends will let the Iranian officials know that in the event the above steps do not [Page 595]result in freeing the hostages by no later than two weeks after the Majlis convenes, and in any case no later than mid May, you will join with us at that time in complete and formal severance of all diplomatic relations with Iran. Without this kind of support from our close friends, the U.S. will have little choice but to undertake further and more severe unilateral actions.

It is important to keep the attention of the Iranians on the issue of releasing the hostages. While the departure of the Shah from Panama was dictated by medical considerations, his presence in Egypt has the effect of again removing the extradition of the Shah as a possible element in the arrangements for release of the hostages. We had sought to enable the Shah to have necessary surgery in Panama, but that proved impossible given his assessment of the medical circumstances there.

We will want to be in close touch with your government during the days ahead so as to share assessments of changing circumstances and to coordinate our actions in the most effective way possible. No one can dispute the fact that the patience of the American people during this crisis has been extraordinary. That patience will not endure in the face of further Iranian inaction. I trust you will agree that it is now time to bring home forcibly to Iranians the consequences of their illegal action.

Thank you again for your help during this difficult time.4


Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, Office File, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 73, Middle East, 3–5/80. Secret; Flash; Via Batman channels. The same message was sent to Giscard in telegram WH80368, to Thatcher in telegram WH80398, to Schmidt in telegram WH89365, and to Cossiga and Trudeau in telegram 79098 to Rome and Ottawa, all March 25. (All ibid.)
  2. March 31.
  3. UNSC Resolution 461; see Document 128.
  4. In his memoir, Vance noted that except for a positive response from Trudeau, the formal replies to the letter expressed strong endorsement of the U.S. diplomatic approach but counseled restraint. (Vance, Hard Choices, p. 407) Giscard’s response was transmitted in telegram 85716 from Paris, April 1. Schmidt’s letter to Carter is in telegram 85936 from Bonn, April 1; and Thatcher’s response is in telegram 86045 from London, April 1. (Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, Iran NODIS Cables Apr 1980) Trudeau responded March 31. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Box 32, Subject File, Iran 3/27/80–3/31/80) The Japanese Embassy responded March 26 that Japan was alarmed at the prospect of imposing more sanctions. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, Box 64, Outside the System File, Iran Non-Meetings Hostage Crisis 1/80–3/80)