Iran situation heats up

Back, by popular demand, I bring you the Speculation of Independence!

And the Navy, after a crash development program, has moved a converted amphibious transport and docking ship, the Ponce, into the Persian Gulf to serve as the Pentagon’s first floating staging base for military operations or humanitarian assistance.

The initial assignment for the Ponce, Pentagon officials say, is to serve as a logistics and operations hub for mine-clearing. But with a medical suite and helicopter deck, and bunks for combat troops, the Ponce eventually could be used as a base for Special Operations forces to conduct a range of missions, including reconnaissance and counterterrorism, all from international waters.

For Obama, the combination of negotiations, new sanctions aimed at Iran’s oil revenues and increased military pressure is the latest — and perhaps the most vital — test of what the White House calls a “two track” policy against Iran. In the midst of a presidential election campaign in which his opponent, Mitt Romney, has accused him of being “weak” in dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue, Mr. Obama seeks to project toughness without tipping into a crisis in the region.

At the same time he must signal support for Israel, but not so much support that the Israelis see the buildup as an opportunity to strike the Iranian nuclear facilities, which Mr. Obama’s team believes could set off a war without significantly setting back the Iranian program.

A key motivation for “Olympic Games,” the covert effort to undermine Iran’s enrichment capability with cyber attacks, has been to demonstrate to the Israelis that there are more effective ways to slow the program than to strike from the air.

But this delicate signaling to both Iran and Israel is a complex dance. Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that the administration must strike a fine balance between positioning enough forces to deter Iran, but not inadvertently indicate to Iran or Israel that an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites is imminent or inevitable.

Yet while the market may be a bit worried about Iran it was the dismal ISM manufacturing number that brought oil back down. This number does not bode well for oil demand and it probably signals that Friday’s jobs report will not be that great. Yet with an ongoing strike in Norway impacting 15% of Norway’s production and rumors of a Fourth of July stimulus spectacular in Europe is giving oil a boost driving Brent Crude back over $100. With Iran Oil out and Norway on strike it is giving the oil market reason to bounce! 

 See Phil's ode to specs: The Speculation of Independence!

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