Iranian officials have issued similar threats, but this was the strongest statement yet by a top commander in the security establishment.
“The supreme authorities … have insisted that if enemies block 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 countering such threats,” Revolutionary Guard Deputy Cmdr. Ali Ashraf Nouri was quoted as saying by another newspaper, the Khorasan daily.
Iran charges that, as a former U.S. Marine, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati received special training and served at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran for his alleged intelligence mission. The radio report did not say when the verdict was issued. Under Iranian law, Hekmati, a dual U.S.-Iranian national,has 20 days to appeal. His father, a professor at a community college in Flint, Mich., has said his son is not a CIA spy and was visiting his grandmothers in Iran when he was arrested.
In an interview broadcast Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Iran is laying the groundwork for making nuclear weapons someday, but is not yet building a bomb. Mr. Panetta reiterated U.S. concerns about a unilateral strike by Israel against Iran‘s nuclear facilities, saying the action 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.”
Mr. Panetta’s remarks on CBS’ “Face the Nation” reflect the U.S. administration’s long-held view that Iran is not yet committed to building a nuclear arsenal, only to creating the industrial and scientific capacity to allow one if its leaders to decide to take that final step.
President Obama approved new sanctions against Iran a week ago, targeting the central bank and its ability to sell petroleum abroad. The U.S. has delayed implementing the sanctions for at least six months, worried about sending the price of oil higher at a time when the global economy is struggling.
By Elaine Donnelly
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