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The deputy head of the Islamic Republic's armed forces, Mohammad Hejazi, has said that Iran would take pre-emptive action against its enemies if it felt its national interests were endangered. Iran is facing growing international pressure and isolation over its disputed nuclear activity. Expanded Western sanctions aim to block its economically vital oil exports and Tehran has said it could retaliate by shutting the Strait of Hormuz shipping lane vital to global energy supplies. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other senior officials had protested over recent comments by senior American officials critical of any Israeli attack on Iran, saying this criticism was serving Iran's interests.