Iran has the ability to temporarily block the Strait of Hormuz but the U.S. “would take action and reopen” it, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin Dempsey said Sunday, making clear to Iran that in threatening to close the straits, it is literally playing with fire. .
“They’ve invested in capabilities that could, in fact, for a period of time block the Strait of Hormuz,” Dempsey said in an interview for CBS's “Face the Nation."
“We’ve invested in capabilities to ensure that if that happens, we can defeat that.”
Blocking the strategic shipping lane linking the Gulf of Oman with the Persian Gulf would constitute a “red line” for the U.S., Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on the same program.
He assessed that Iran is preparing groundwork for making nuclear weapons someday, but is not yet building an atomic bomb. He called for continued diplomatic and economic pressure to dissuade Tehran from taking that step.
Panetta warned that a unilateral strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities could trigger Iranian retaliation against U.S. forces in the region. “We have common cause here” with Israel, he said. “And the better approach is for us to work together.”
According to AP's analysis, Panetta’s remarks "suggest the White House’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear strategy has not changed in recent months, despite warnings from advocates of military action that time is running out to prevent Tehran from becoming a nuclear-armed state."
The Obama administration has come under attack from Republican presidential hopefuls for what they say is a soft approach to Iran. “If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon,” said Mitt Romney. “And if you elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.”