Tensions high, US warns Iran not to block shipping

January 13, 2012 - 5:53 PM
US Iran

FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2012 file photo, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks at the Pentagon. Tensions flaring, the Obama administration warns Iran through public and private channels against any action that threatens the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. Some experts fear the risk of open conflict with Tehran appears higher than at any point since President Barack Obama took office, perhaps from U.S. moves to enforce open shipping through the Strait of Hormuz or even a military strike from Israel. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is warning Iran publicly and privately not to threaten the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf.

Spokesmen were vague Friday on what the United States would do if Iran did block the Straits of Hormuz. But military officials have been clear that the U.S. is readying for a possible naval clash.

That prospect is the latest flashpoint with Iran. It overshadows the threat of war over Iran's disputed nuclear program, perhaps sparked by an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear structure. But both crises could erupt in a shooting war this year.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is linking the threats. He says an Iranian nuclear weapon is one "red line" the U.S. will not allow Iran to cross, and closure of the straits is another.