National Security Brief: January 9, 2012

— Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday that Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz, thereby cutting off a major oil transit point, would cross a “red line.” “We made very clear that the United States will not tolerate the blocking of the Straits of Hormuz,” Panetta said. “That’s another red line for us and that we will respond to them.”

— Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is heading to Asia to work with China and Japan to shore up new U.S. sanctions — effectively an oil embargo — against Iran.

— Iran began enriching uranium in a mountain bunker, a move likely to fuel international suspicions that Tehran is developing a nuclear weapons capability.

— Amir Mirza Hekmati, a U.S.-Iranian dual citizen, was sentenced to death after an Iranian court found him guilty of spying for the CIA.

— A day after a Venezuelan diplomat was ordered out of the U.S., possibly for ties to an Iranian plot, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with one of his nation’s few remaining staunch friends, the fiercely anti-American Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

— A Turkish foreign ministry spokesperson called on the Syrian opposition to continue its resistance to President Assad’s regime through “peaceful means.”

— Syrian troops reportedly fired on protesters today while Arab League observers were touring the area.

— Bahrain will hold a meeting of Jewish and Islamic scholars, according to reports, the first of its kind in the Gulf.