The sabre rattling in the Persian Gulf continues with the deployment of the USS Ponce. Up until recently, the vessel was simply an aging transport ship destined for the scrap heap, but it appears that the Navy has retrofitted the ship, turning it into a command and control station for a variety of missions designed to put pressure on the Iranian regime. The New York Times reports:
The first mission of the reborn Ponce was designed to be low profile and defensive, as an operations hub for mine clearing in the Strait of Hormuz, a counter to threats from Tehran to close the vital commercial waterway. In that role, the Ponce will be a launching pad for helicopters, a home to underwater diver teams and a seaborne service station providing fuel and maintenance for minesweeping ships.
But with the relatively simple addition of a modular barracks on the deck, the Ponce can also be a mobile base for several hundred Special Operations forces to carry out missions like hostage rescue, counterterrorism, reconnaissance, sabotage and direct strikes. Even with the addition of the barracks, there is ample room for helicopters and the small, fast boats favored by commandos.
This latest deployment, as well as last week’s report of a steadily increasing U.S. military presence, may have unintended consequences for U.S. policy. Every step forward makes it more difficult for the Obama administration to back down. There’s not a lot of news in the very slow running contest between the United States and Iran, but the fuse on this bomb is lit, and at some point either Iran is going to back down, the United States is going to back down, or there is going to be war.