Richard Nixon says incidents like the violence in the Persian Gulf strengthen the presidential candidacy of George Bush because when the United States is attacked the American people rally around the administration.

"I don't think George Bush is going to make a political issue out of this," the former president said Monday in an interview with CNN. But, he said, Democratic contender Michael Dukakis ought to join "in making it clear to the Iranians they are confronting a united United States on this issue and that we're not going to be divided."Nixon also said President Reagan should make it clear to the Soviets that the gulf is "an area we consider absolutely vital and that eventually they are going to hurt their relations with us unless they join us in trying to get this war brought to an end."

He described the Iran-Iraq conflict as "not a war that we want either side to win" and added: "There has never been a war in which both sides deserved to lose more than this war."