US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Sunday that his country would act if the Islamic Republic of Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon or close the Strait of Hormuz.
Speaking to CBS’ Face the Nation, Panetta said that if Iran started developing a weapon, the U.S. would act. "I think they need to know that — that if they take that step — that they're going to get stopped."
He did not rule out launching what he called a pre-emptive strike.
"But the responsible thing to do right now is to keep putting diplomatic and economic pressure on them to force them to do the right thing," he said.
"And to make sure that they do not make the decision to proceed with the development of a nuclear weapon."
Panetta also said that closing the strait would draw a U.S. military response. "We made very clear that the United States will not tolerate the blocking of the Strait of Hormuz," he said. "That's another red line for us and ... we will respond to them."
For his part, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, who was appearing with the defense secretary, said that he wanted the Iranians to believe that a U.S. military strike could wipe out their nuclear program.
"I absolutely want them to believe that's the case," he said.
He added said that Iran has the military power to block the Strait of Hormuz "for a period of time" if it decides to do so, but that the U.S. would take action to reopen waterway. "We can defeat that," he said.