In chess, to achieve checkmate you must first position your pieces properly.
For years I’ve dismissed the topic of war with Iran. I just never thought it would happen, or at least knew we would see it coming so have repeatedly dismissed claims that war is near. We’ll, this is the kind of movement I’ve been waiting to see happen before taking this too seriously as a legitimate possibility, rather than an implied one.
Today, mentioned in passing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee – without a word or question on the topic from any supposedly well informed Senators – Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert told the Senate committee that the US Navy is going to deploy 4 minesweepers to the Persian Gulf (which will double the number of US Navy Minesweepers in the Persian Gulf) and also send additional mine hunting helicopters to the region. This comes following news earlier this year that the US Navy is working on the USS Ponce to deploy to the Persian Gulf to be a full time Mine Warfare Command Ship.
THE strategic chokepoint in the world’s shipping lanes is the Straits of Hormuz. And Iran is on one side of it. Closing the straits to military traffic is a fairly tough nut. The problem is, closing it to merchant traffic is ridiculously simple. Just a handful of World War I era contact sea mines set adrift in the straits would be enough to either close the sea lanes, or at best, raise insurance costs to unacceptable levels. Iran wouldn’t even have to really deploy mines. Merely announcing they have would have almost the same impact.
If the US or Israel does attack Iran, it is almost dead certain they would retaliate by attempting to close the straits. In that case, having substantial mine countermeasure capability on station would be critical.
But I don’t see this as a step the US is taking prior to initiating hostile actions. Rather, I think the Navy, having seen the war of words escalating back in February, where Iran reiterated its ability to deny access, decided to counter that talk with the movement of forces. Having the MCM assets in place allows the US to counter those Iranian statements. The gamble is, Iran is in the position of either de-escalating, which we would hope for, or escalating the crisis. Should the Iranians escalate, they would pay the diplomatic price of a unilateral action (as well as economically cutting their own throat- the Chinese are their primary customers, and would not be pleased). In any event, the US has basically told the Iranians “ your move.”