With the domestic consensus for the administration's policy on the Persian Gulf beginning to fracture, Secretary of State James A. Baker III declared Tuesday that a primary reason the United States must confront Iraq is to save American jobs.

Speaking with reporters after a hastily arranged meeting here with Canada's external affairs secretary, Joe Clark, Baker dispensed with some of the more abstract explanations for the administration's gulf policy and focused on the fate of the American worker.``The economic lifeline of the industrial world runs from the gulf and we cannot permit a dictator such as this to sit astride that economic lifeline,' Baker said, referring to the Persian Gulf's oil reserves.

``To bring it down to the level of the average American citizen, let me say that means jobs. If you want to sum it up in one word, it's jobs.

Beginning last Friday in Moscow, Baker first began to say that what was at stake in the gulf was the ``pocketbook' and ``standard of living' of every American.

It has become apparent to administration officials that the eroding support for the administration's gulf policy, if not stemmed, is going to nullify its entire gulf strategy.

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