Top news: The United States has continued its naval buildup in the Persian Gulf to counter an Iranian threat to international shipping routes. The New York Times reports that the Ponce, a '60s-era warship converted into a floating forward staging base, arrived in the region last week. The Ponce will serve as a launching pad for helicopters as well as a homebase for divers and minesweeper units should Iran try to mine the Strait of Hormuz. With the addition of modular barracks, the ship can also serve as a staging ground for Special Operations teams.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Navy is rushing undersea drones to the region for use in mine-clearing operations. The German-made, 88-pound, $100,000 devices known as SeaFoxes, began arriving in recent weeks as international talks over Iran's disputed nuclear program have stalled. The Pentagon has also recently added four minesweeping ships to a contingent that already includes two aircraft carriers, an F-22 squadron, and two army brigades based in Kuwait.
If Iran were to close the Strait, as it has threatened to do in response to international sanctions, officials say that it could take 5 to 10 days to reopen, causing a major disruption to international energy markets.
Secretary of State: Hillary Clinton became the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Laos since the end of the Vietnam War. On the sidelines of a regional forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Clinton met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in an attempt to resolve tensions in the South China Sea.
- The U.S. has formally eased sanctions on Myanmar.
- Nine police officers were killed in an attack on a compound in Lahore, Pakistan.
- An American convicted of insulting the king of Thailand has been pardoned.
- Syria's ambassador to Iraq appears to have defected.
- Former interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril extended his lead over his Islamist rivals in Libya's election.
- Israel launched two strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
- Guantanamo Bay prisoner Ibrahim al-Qosi was repatriated to Sudan.
- A fuel tanker fire in the Niger Delta killed at least 92 people.
- Aid agencies warned that tens of thousands of lives are at risk in Kenyan refugee camps near the Somali border.
- 110 people have now been infected with cholera in Cuba.
- A Colombian Air Force plane participating in an anti-FARC mission has gone missing.
- A Brazilian senator has been expelled for ties to a gambling ring.
- Spain's new austerity measures were met with violent protests by miners.
- War crimes defendant Ratko Mladic was rushed to the hospital after collapsing in court.
- French carmaker Citroen is cutting 8,000 jobs.
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