Iran tests missiles, renews Hormuz closure threat as EU oil embargo kicks in
Iranian Navy boats take part in maneuvers during the "Velayat-90" navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran, Jan. 3, 2012, at the end day of ten-day war games. / Getty
(CBS/AP) TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's official news agency official IRNA reports that the country's powerful Revolutionary Guards unit has launched several missiles in a military exercise.
Iran holds several military maneuvers per year, but the current one coincides with the beginning of a European Union oil embargo meant to pressure the country over its nuclear program.
The Tuesday report said the missiles, including long-range ones capable of hitting U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, successfully hit their targets.
Iran has balked at the EU oil embargo since it was first approved by the 27-nation bloc in January, with Tehran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz - a vital shipping channel through which a fifth of the world's oil supply passes - in retaliation.
Reacting at the time, Ramin Mehmanparast, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, called the economic sanctions "illogical and unfair".
He said due to the world's long-term need for energy, "It is not possible to impose sanctions on Iran," which has huge resources of oil and gas.
Iranian lawmakers appeared to renew the threat of closing Hormuz off to international tanker traffic on Monday, as a member of parliament told news media a "bill has been developed as an answer to the European Union's oil sanctions".
According to the Reuters, MP Ibrahim Agha-Mohammadi told an Iranian news agency that the bill, "stresses the blocking of oil tanker traffic carrying oil to countries that have sanctioned Iran."When Iran started making threats to close the Strait, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CBS "Face the Nation" that Washington would simply "not tolerate" such a move by the Iranian military. (Click player at left to see interview with Panetta and General Martin Dempsey)
"That's another red line for us and that we will respond to them," he added.
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that while the Iranians have the capability to block the strait for a time, the U.S. 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."
CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that any closure of the Strait - regardless of brevity, would send global oil prices soaring.(In the video at left, Palmer discusses Iran's apparent intentions with "CBS This Morning" co-hosts Jeff Glor and Erica Hill) "There's saber-rattling on both sides," however, notes Palmer. "The U.S. has been building up its own military presence in the Persian Gulf as a deterrent to Iran, and also to Israel which has threatened to attack Iran's nuclear facilities."
The danger, says Palmer, is that with the tension building and U.S. and Iranian military vessels sailing withing close range of each other, "a mistake can so rapidly escalate into open conflict."
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