Iran Has Ability To Block Strait Of Hormuz
Iran has the ability to block the Strait of Hormuz “for a period of time,” and the U.S. would take action to reopen it, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin Dempsey said.
“They’ve invested in capabilities that could, in fact, for a period of time block the Strait of Hormuz,” Dempsey said in an interview aired yesterday on the CBS “Face the Nation” program. “We’ve invested in capabilities to ensure that if that happens, we can defeat that.”
Should Iran try to close Hormuz, the U.S. “would take action and reopen” the waterway, said Dempsey, President Barack Obama’s top military adviser.
Blocking the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic shipping lane linking the Gulf of Oman with the Persian Gulf, would constitute a “red line” for the U.S., as would Iranian efforts to build a nuclear weapon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on the same program.
Iran Reported To Enrich Uranium At Underground Lab
Iran has begun uranium enrichment at a new underground site built to withstand possible airstrikes, a leading hard-line newspaper reported Sunday in another show of defiance against Western pressure to rein in Tehran's nuclear program.
The operations at the bunker-like facility south of Tehran, reported by the Kayhan daily newspaper, are small in comparison to Iran's main enrichment site. But the centrifuges at the underground labs are considered more efficient and are shielded from aerial surveillance and protected against airstrikes by up to 300 feet (90 meters) of mountain rock.
Uranium enrichment is at the core of the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. and its allies fear Iran could use its enrichment facilities to develop high-grade nuclear material for warheads.
A senior commander of the Revolutionary Guard force was quoted as saying Tehran's leadership has decided to order the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic oil route, if the country's petroleum exports are blocked. Revolutionary Guard ground forces also staged war games in eastern Iran in an apparent display of resolve against U.S. forces just over the border in Afghanistan.
Russian, French Warships Off Syria, Iran, U.S. Drones Over Iranian Coast
US, Russian French and British air and naval forces streamed to the Syrian and Iranian coasts over the weekend on guard for fresh developments at the two Middle East flashpoints.
The Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov anchored earlier than planned at Syria's Tartus port on the Mediterranean Sunday, Jan. 8, arriving together with the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and frigate Yaroslav Mudry.
DEBKAfile's military sources report a buildup in the last 48 hours of western naval forces opposite Iran in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea in readiness for Tehran to carry out its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz.
Britain has dispatched the HMS Daring, a Type 45 destroyer armed with new technology for shooting down missiles, to the Sea of Oman, due to arrive at the same time as the French Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.
After the Admiral Kuznetsov docked in Tartus Sunday with much fanfare, the Syrian Navy commander Dawoud Rajha was received on the deck by a guard of honor of marines under a flyover of Russian Su-33 and Su-25 fighter-bombers. This was taken as a signal of Moscow's willingness to back the Assad regime up against any Western military intervention as well as a gesture of support for cooperation between Syria and Iran in their operational plans.
Khamenei Says Iran WIll Not Yield To Western Sanctions
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday that Iran would not yield to the pressure of sanctions imposed by the West to get the Islamic Republic to change its nuclear course.
"The Islamic establishment...knows firmly what it is doing and has chosen its path and will stay the course," Khamenei said.
Iran has so far refused to halt uranium enrichment activity, a pathway to nuclear energy or nuclear weapons, as demanded by the United Nations Security Council.
Iran Issues New Threat To Close Strait Of Hormuz
Iran has again threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, this time using the excuse of a military exercise set for January 27.
According to Esmaeil Kowsari, a Iranian legislator who is a member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, the country's elite Revolutionary Guards corp will launch the naval exercise.
Kowsari was quoted in a report published Saturday by the Mehr News Agency as saying the drill would be carried out with the aim of fine-tuning Iran's ability to close the Strait of Hormuz "in the shortest possible time when the situation requires it."
Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said the drills -- dubbed the "Great Prophet" -- will be the "greatest naval war games" ever conducted by the Revolutionary Guards, according to the hard-line Fars news agency.
The Real Deal On The U.S.-Israel Joint Mega-Drill Sending Military Message To Iranians
A planned American-Israeli missile defense exercise is receiving special attention on the heels of a 10-day Iranian naval exercise and Iranian threats of closing the Strait of Hormuz through which a sixth of the world’s oil passes.
The AP quoted a senior military official:
He said it would be the biggest missile defense drill ever held. He was speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. The Israeli official said thousands of American and Israeli soldiers from different units would take part. He said the drill would test multiple Israeli and U.S. air defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets. Israel has deployed the “Arrow” system, jointly developed and funded with the U.S., designed to intercept Iranian missiles in the stratosphere, far from Israel.
The joint American-Israeli exercise, expected to occur in the spring, is just one of a number of weekend developments with a cumulative effect of sending warnings to Tehran. The Telegraph reported from London that the UK will deploy its largest warship, the HMS Daring, to the Persian Gulf to “send a significant message to the Iranians…” It will arrive later this month.
Haniyeh Promises "Difficult Days" For Israel
Speaking at a rally in the Tunisian capital of Tunis, Haniyeh urged Arab Spring revolutionaries to fight for an independent Palestine. AFP reported that he received an ovation from a crowd of some 5,000 men, women and children, who gathered in a stadium waving PLO, Tunisian and Hamas flags.
“Israel no longer has allies in Egypt and in Tunisia, we are saying to the Zionist enemies that times have changed and that the time of the Arab Spring, the time of the revolution, of dignity and of pride has arrived,” Haniyeh was quoted as having said
He added, “We promise you that we will not cede a single part of Palestine, we will not cede Jerusalem, we will continue to fight and we will not lay down our arms.”
Haniyeh also urged “the people of the revolution to fight the army of Al-Quds. To Tunisia we say: ‘It is us today who are going to build the new Middle East.’”
He insisted that Hamas “will not recognize Israel”, as the crowd chanted, “Death to Israel”, “The Tunisian revolution supports Palestine”, and “The army of Mohammed is back,” said the report.