TEHRAN, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- Iranian authorities reiterated threats to close Strait of Hormuz if Western countries impose sanctions on Iran's oil exports, local media reported Sunday.
A commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said that high-ranking officials of the country have decided to close the Strait of Hormuz if sanctions are imposed on Iran's crude oil exports, local Khorasan daily reported Sunday.
Khorasan quoted Ali-Ashraf Nouri as saying that "The supreme authorities of the (Islamic) establishment have emphasized that if the enemies impose sanctions on the export of our oil, we won't allow a drop of oil to pass through the Strait of Hormuz. This is the strategy of the Islamic republic in face of such threats."
Aso, a senior Iranian lawmaker said the aim of the upcoming naval drills by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) is to prepare for the potential closure of the strategic Hormuz Strait, the local satellite Press TV reported on Sunday.
Deputy Head of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Esmail Kowsari said that IRGC's military maneuver has been designed to prepare the armed forces for receiving the order to shut down the strait within the shortest time possible.
The local media on Friday quoted an IRGC Navy Commander as saying that IRGC Navy plans to hold a large-scale military maneuver in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz in February.
The upcoming maneuver, titled Great Prophet-7, is one of a series of drills dubbed Great Prophet, and will be different compared to previous exercises held by the IRGC, Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said.
Fadavi stated the strategic Strait of Hormuz is completely under Iran's control, and all activities in the waterway are monitored by the Islamic republic.
The Strait of Hormuz, connecting the Persian Gulf with the Sea of Oman, is one of the world's most critical oil routes. Any incidents here may cause global oil market to fluctuate, he said.
On Tuesday, Iran's navy ended its 10-day naval drill, dubbed " Velayat 90", in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman which began on Dec. 24, 2011 amid increasing tensions between Iran and the West over a string of issues, including Iran' s alleged role in a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, attacks on the British Embassy in Tehran, the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report on the Iranian nuclear program, and disputes over a U.S. drone captured by Iran.
On Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta outlined red lines for Iran in a TV interview vowing that the United States would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon or to block the Strait of Hormuz, as Iran began uranium enrichment at a new underground site well protected from possible airstrikes.
"Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us," Panetta said in the interview on the "Face the Nation" program of CBS. "And our red line to Iran is to not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us."
Panetta also said that Washington would "not tolerate" the blocking of the Strait of Hormuz, saying "that's another red line for us and that we will respond to them."
Appearing in the same interview, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey added that while Iranians have the capability to block the strait for a time, the United States would also be able to "defeat" them if it happened.
"They've invested in capabilities that could, in fact, for a period of time block the Straits of Hormuz. We've invested in capabilities to ensure that if that happens, we can defeat that," he said. "We've described that as an intolerable act. And it's not just intolerable for us, it's intolerable to the world. But we would take action and reopen the Straits."
On Sunday, the leading Iranian newspaper, Kayhan, reported that the Islamic republic has begun uranium enrichment at a new underground site well protected from possible airstrikes.
Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened the West against potential sanctions on Iran's oil exports. They have said that Iran will block the Strait of Hormuz if its interests are threatened.
Last week, Kazzem Jalali, rapporteur of the Iran's Majlis ( parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said Iran would use all its capabilities and possibilities to defend the country against foreign threats and the country will use the Strait of Hormuz as a defensive tool and will close the waterway if it comes under threat.
"Iran will definitely use the defensive potential of the Strait of Hormuz if it is faced with threats," said Jalali.
In December, 2011, the U.S. Department of Defense warned Iran against any attempt to block the Strait of Hormuz which is one of the world's most important oil passages.
"This is not just an important issue for security and stability in the region, but is an economic lifeline for countries in the Gulf, including Iran," Pentagon press secretary George Little said. "Interference with the transit or passage of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz will not be tolerated."
Little's remarks came after Iran's top officials threatened to seal off the important oil passage. Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said last week that Iran will close the Strait of Hormuz if the West imposes sanctions on its oil exports.
Following a report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran's nuclear program in November, 2011, the United States, Britain and Canada announced new sanctions against Iran.
Certain Western countries have also said that they are considering sanctions against Iran's Central Bank and Iran's crude exports.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for civilian and medical use only, but Western powers have accused it of harboring ambitions for nuclear weapons.
Iran begins uranium enrichment at new Fordo nuclear facilities: report
TEHRAN, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- Iran has started uranium enrichment at the Fordo facility, the conservative Kayhan daily reported Sunday.
Iran has started injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at the Fordo facility near Qom city in central Iran, said the daily. Full story
Pentagon chief says won't allow Iran to have nukes, block Hormuz
WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta outlined red lines for Iran in a TV interview on Sunday, vowing that the United States would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon or to block the Strait of Hormuz, as Iran began uranium enrichment at a new underground site well protected from possible airstrikes.
"Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us," Panetta said in the interview on the "Face the Nation" program of CBS. "And our red line to Iran is to not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us." Full story
Special Report: Iran Nuclear Crisis