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SF Sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, Sentenced In Domestic Case

San Francisco’s Sheriff was sentenced Monday to one day in jail and three years of probation for falsely imprisoning his wife during a headline-grabbing New Year’s Eve incident, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Prosecutors accused Ross Mirkarimi of inflicting a large bruise on his wife’s left arm on New Year’s Eve while the couple’s two-year-old child was with them in their San Francisco home.

Mirkarimi, who assumed his position as Sheriff of the County of San Francisco in January, pleaded guilty last week to a single misdemeanor false imprisonment count as part of a deal in which prosecutors dropped charges of domestic violence battery, dissuading a witness and endangering a child.

He had previously maintained his innocence.

Mirkarimi, 50, said outside the courtroom Monday that he “humbly and deeply apologizes” for hurting his wife, the Chronicle reported.

The Sheriff will receive credit for time already served in jail.

As part of the plea agreement, Mirkarimi is required to attend domestic-violence intervention classes for one year, complete100 hours of community service, pay $590 in court costs and enroll in parenting classes at the discretion of his probation officer.

Mirkarimi’s wife did not cooperate with prosecutors and said the charges were politically motivated.

But the day after the incident she asked a neighbor to shoot a video to document the bruise and said that her husband had caused it.

Mirkarimi will remain under a court order to avoid coming into contact with his wife until he begins his domestic violence classes, the Chronicle reported. The 50-year-old can currently visit with his son for several hours a week.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has previously said he is considering whether to begin an administrative process to attempt to remove Mirkarimi from office.

A defiant Ross Mirkarimi vowed Thursday to “absolutely” fight the charges of ethical misconduct brought against him by Mayor Ed Lee in response to a lengthy domestic abuse saga that has unfolded over the past three months.

San Francisco’s embattled sheriff pleaded guilty to false imprisonment last week as part of a bargain with prosecutors to have more serious domestic violence charges against his wife, Venezuelan soap opera actress Eliana Lopez, dropped. But he refuses to resign from his post, despite widespread public demand from anti-domestic abuse advocates and San Francisco officials.

In response to his refusal, the mayor officially suspended Mirkarimi earlier this week, charging him with misconduct. Lee needs nine of the city’s 11 supervisors to vote in favor of removal in order to permanently strip the sheriff of his title.

“After careful review of the City Charter and the evidence before me, I am suspending and formally charging Ross Mirkarimi with official misconduct,” Lee said in a statement. “I take this action with every conviction that I am acting on a firm legal basis and doing what is in the best interest of the people of San Francisco.”

Still, Mirkarimi has vowed to stand his ground. On Thursday, he told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was “prepared to fight” the mayor’s charges until the end.

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RUDE AWAKENING

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Song is from the 1989 Aaron Russo film Rude Awakening, featuring Cheech Marin, the song is about the major issues we are facing today in the world. Song performed by Righteous Brothers member Bill Medley.

Mossad, CIA and Blackwater operate in Syria – report

Members of the Free Syrian Army patrol an area in Qusayr, 15 kms (nine miles) from Homs. (AFP Photo / STR)  Ahmed Jadallah)

Members of the Free Syrian Army patrol an area in Qusayr, 15 kms (nine miles) from Homs. (AFP Photo / STR) Ahmed Jadallah)

TAGS: ArmsConflictMilitaryUSAIsraelWar,Syria

 

A security operation in Homs reveals Mossad, CIA and Blackwater are involved in the military violence in this part of Syria, as over 700 Arab and Western gunmen and Israeli, American and European-made weapons were detained in Baba Amr district.

Syrian security forces got yet further proof of Western powers’ military involvement in Syria’s internal conflict, reports Al-Manar, a news agency, affiliated with Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant group and political party.

Around 700 gunmen were recently arrested in the former rebel stronghold of Babar Amr.

“The captured gunmen held Arab nationalities, including Gulf, Iraqi, and Lebanese. Among them were also Qatari intelligence agents and non-Arab fighters from Afghanistan, Turkey, and some European countries like France,” the agency quotes Syrian expert in strategic affairs Salim Harba as saying.

Harba also confirmed to the agency that “a coordination office was established in Qatar under American-Gulf sponsorship. The office includes American, French, and Gulf – specifically from Qatar and Saudi Arabia – intelligence agents, as well as CIA, Mossad, and Blackwater agents and members of the Syrian Transitional Council.”

The Syrian expert also added the security forces have also seized Israeli-, European- and American-made weapons.

“The Syrian army also uncovered tunnels and equipments there,” he told to the agency, “advanced Israeli, European, and American arms that have not yet been tested in the countries of manufacture, in addition to Israeli grenades, night binoculars, and communication systems were confiscated by the security forces.” 

Salim Harba however said the Syrian authorities are not planning to reveal all the obtained information now, but assured all the evidence is of high value.

“The Syrian security forces have documents and confessions that could harm everyone who conspired against Syria, and could make a security and political change, not just on the internal Syrian level, but also on the regional level,” he said.

The recent Stratfor leak and hacked email of the company’s director of analysis also suggest undercover NATO troops are already on the ground in Syria.

There have been previous allegations of a Western presence on the side of the rebels as 13 French officers were reportedly captured by the loyalist forces earlier in March.

President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly claimed his regime is fighting not with peaceful protesters as claimed by the West, but with the military gangs supported by the West.

Western powers however have categorically denied any military involvement in Syrian internal conflict.

U.S. Backers of Israel Pressure Obama Over Policy on Iran

WASHINGTON — On the eve of a crucial visit to the White House by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, that country’s most powerful American advocates are mounting an extraordinary public campaign to pressure President Obama into hardening American policy toward Iran over its nuclear program.

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Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, at a news conference last month.

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From the corridors of Congress to a gathering of nearly 14,000 American Jews and other supporters of Israel here this weekend, Mr. Obama is being buffeted by demands that the United States be more aggressive toward Iran and more forthright in supporting Israel in its own confrontation with Tehran.

While defenders of Israel rally every year at the meeting of the pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, this year’s gathering has been supercharged by a convergence of election-year politics, a deepening nuclear showdown and the often-fraught relationship between the president and the Israeli prime minister.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu will both speak to the group, known as Aipac, as will the three leading Republican presidential candidates, who will appear via satellite from the campaign trail on the morning of Super Tuesday. Republicans have seized on Iran’s nuclear ambitions to accuse Mr. Obama of being weak in backing a staunch ally and in confronting a bitter foe.

The pressure from an often-hostile Congress is also mounting. A group of influential senators, fresh from a meeting with Mr. Netanyahu in Jerusalem, has called on Mr. Obama to lay down sharper criteria, known as “red lines,” about when to act against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“We’re saying to the administration, ‘You’ve got a problem; let’s fix it, let’s get back on message,’ ” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who took part in the meeting with Mr. Netanyahu and said the Israeli leader vented frustration at what he viewed as mixed messages from Washington.

“It’s not just about the Jewish vote and 2012,” Mr. Graham added. “It’s about reassuring people who want to avoid war that the United States will do what’s necessary.”

To give teeth to the deterrent threat against Iran, Israel and its backers want Mr. Obama to stop urging restraint on Israel and to be more explicit about the circumstances under which the United States itself would carry out a strike.

Specifically, Israeli officials are demanding that Iran agree to halt all its enrichment of uranium in the country, and that the suspension be verified by United Nations inspectors, before the West resumes negotiations with Tehran on its nuclear program.

The White House has rejected that demand, Israeli and American officials said on Friday, arguing that Iran would never agree to a blanket ban upfront, and to insist on it would doom negotiations before they even began. The administration insists that Mr. Obama will stick to his policy, which is focused on using economic sanctions to force the Iranian government to give up its nuclear ambitions, with military action as a last resort.

Despite the position of the Israelis and Aipac, the American intelligence agencies continue to say that there is no evidence that Iran has made a final decision to pursue a nuclear weapon. Recent assessments by American spy agencies have reaffirmed intelligence findings in 2007 and 2010 that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weaponsprogram.

In his tone, at least, Mr. Obama is working to reassure Israel. In an interview published on Friday, Mr. Obama reiterated his pledge to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon — with force, if necessary — and ruled out a policy of accepting but seeking to contain a nuclear-armed Iran. The Israeli government, he said, recognizes that “as president of the United States, I don’t bluff.”

The White House’s choice of interviewer — Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for the magazine The Atlantic — was carefully calculated. Mr. Goldberg is closely read among Jews in America; in 2010, he wrote an article exploring the situations under which Israel would attack Iran.

American Jews are anything but monolithic. More dovish groups, like J Street, are trying to make a case against a pre-emptive Israeli strike. But for the next few days, Aipac will set the tone for an intense debate over the Iranian nuclear threat.

Mr. Obama will not lay down new red lines on Iran, even if he discusses them with Mr. Netanyahu, administration officials said. And he is not ready to accept a central part of Israel’s strategic calculation: that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be warranted to stop it from gaining the capability to build a nuclear weapon, rather than later, to stop it from actually manufacturing one.

In the interview, Mr. Obama warned Israel of the consequences of a strike and said that it would delay but not prevent Iran from acquiring a weapon. He also said he did not know how the American public would react.

MORE…

Israel’s supporters said they believed that a majority of Americans would support an Israeli military strike against Iran. But polling data paints a murkier picture: while close to 50 percent of Americans say in several polls that they would support Israel, a slightly larger number say they would stay neutral. In some surveys, there is strong support for continuing diplomacy.

Supporters of Israel argue that in the American news media, Iran’s nuclear program has been wrongly framed as Israel’s problem, rather than as a threat to the security of the whole world.

“This is about the devastating impact on U.S. and Western security of a nuclear-armed Iran bent on bullying the region into submission,” said Josh Block, a former spokesman for Aipac.

Turnout for this year’s Aipac conference is expected to surpass all previous records. And the roster of speakers attests to the group’s drawing power. In addition to Mr. Obama, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will speak, as will Congressional leaders including Senator Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s Republican leader, and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House.

On Tuesday, the screens in the Washington convention center will light up with the Republican presidential contenders Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, who are likely to fault Mr. Obama as not doing enough to prevent Iran from getting a weapon.

“Aipac is the spearhead of the pro-Israel community’s efforts to move the American government’s red lines closer to Israel’s red lines,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former American envoy to Israel.

Officials at Aipac declined to comment about the conference or their strategy. But Mr. Block and other former Aipac officials said that, as in previous years, the group would blanket Capitol Hill with its members — all of whom will carry a message about the Iranian nuclear threat.

They will be pushing on an open door. Democrats and Republicans, divided on so much, are remarkably united in supporting Israel and in ratcheting up pressure on Iran. The Senate voted 100 to 0 last year to pass legislation isolating Iran’s central bank, over the objections of the White House.

There are four bills in the House and Senate that call for tougher action against Iran or closer military cooperation between Israel and the United States. Mr. Graham is one of 32 Republican and Democratic sponsors of a resolution that calls on the president to reject a policy of containing Iran.

“The Senate can’t agree to cross the street,” Mr. Graham said. “Iran has done more to bring us together than anything in the world.”

To counter Aipac’s message, J Street has circulated a video on Capitol Hill, highlighting American and Israeli military experts who have voiced doubts about the efficacy of a strike on Iran.

“We are saying there needs to be time for enhanced sanctions and diplomacy to work,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street. “We’re trying to calm down the drumbeat of war.”

Tracking the trackers: Mozilla’s anti-Big Brother add-on

Collusion add-on demo

Collusion add-on demo

TAGS: Human rightsInternet,Information Technology

 

The owner of Firefox, the world’s second most popular browser, is backing an add-on which would allow users to monitor in real-time how their actions are tracked and shared by various websites as they surf the net.

The tool currently in development visualizes the flow of information as a meshwork of bubbles representing different websites. It tracks the sites which the user visits and also shows their known partners – ad companies, behavior profilers and other third parties. As surfing continues, a pattern emerges revealing that different popular sites are linked to the same data collectors, which are building up their knowledge on the user’s habits and preferences.

The ultimate goal of those companies is to identify what kind of advertising would ring a bell with each user, and then to target them accordingly.

For instance, Google’s controversial new privacy policy aims to share info on users of its various services to build more accurate advertising profiles. The policy came into effect on Thursday amid a chorus of objections from activists and officials that it violates privacy and may be illegal in some jurisdictions. Another example is Facebook, which learns about every visit to a page which has its “Like” button on it.

The amount of data collected by Google, Facebook and other players less-known to the general public is astounding. But the majority of Internet users are oblivious to this fact. Mozilla’s new add-on – called Collusion – aims to change that.

“Collusion will allow us to pull back the curtain and provide users with more information about the growing role of third parties, how data drives most Web experiences, and ultimately how little control we have over that experience and our loss of data,” says Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs in his blog.

Mozilla wants the users of Collusion to submit anonymized data on their surfing habits to build up a database on who tracks them and how it is done. It is intended for researchers, journalists and privacy activists who would monitor data-tracking practices and find possible abuse.

The full version of Collusion will also work together with other tools like TrackerBlock to allow users to selectively hide from some trackers while allowing others to track them.

Israel will strike Iran without warning US – intelligence source

An Israeli F-15 fighterjet (AFP Photo / Jack Guez)

An Israeli F-15 fighterjet (AFP Photo / Jack Guez)

TAGS: ConflictMilitaryNuclearMiddle East,PoliticsIranUSAIsrael

 

Israeli officials say if they decide to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, they will do so without the prior consent or knowledge of the US, according to an AP report citing leaked US intelligence.

The message was conveyed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to a number of senior US officials visiting the country, the news agency said, citing a US intelligence source. The official spoke about the sensitive strategic negotiations on condition of anonymity. Both the US and Israel declined to make any official comment.

Tel Aviv insists its strategy is necessary in order to protect Washington from being blamed for failing to stop an Israeli attack, should it take place. But it may also signify Israeli frustration over America’s position on the conflict.

America has told its Middle Eastern ally that it will neither take military action against Iran nor back unilateral action on the part of Israel. Washington favors sanctions over brute force as a means to stop Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

The news of Israel’s unilateral intentions comes ahead of a key visit to the US by Netanyahu, planned for early March. The Israeli premier reportedly ordered his ministers not to publicly discuss the Iranian nuclear program in an apparent damage limitation move ahead of his trip. The report of the “gagging order” came a day after Defense Minister Barak gave a lengthy TV interview in which he spoke of the danger posed by Iran.

Western countries and Israel are convinced that Iran’s uranium enrichment program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons capability. Israel is determined not to allow this to happen. Iran insists that its nuclear pursuits are purely civilian.

Tensions rose again last week after a leaked UN nuclear watchdog report stated “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”

In the latest bid to halt the enrichment, the US and EU issued sanctions against Iran’s oil industry. However they failed to rally all major buyers of Iranian oil to their banner. Tehran remains adamant that the move will not divert it from its nuclear research.

Chart of the Week: Nearly Half of All Americans Don’t Pay Income Taxes

This year’s Index of Dependence on Government presented startling findings about the sharp increase of Americans who rely on the federal government for housing, food, income, student aid or other assistance. (See last week’s chart.)

Another eye-popping number was the percentage of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, which now accounts for nearly half of the U.S. population. Meanwhile, most of that population receives generous federal benefits.

 

“One of the most worrying trends in the Index is the coinciding growth in the non-taxpaying public,” wrote Heritage authors Bill Beach and Patrick Tyrrell. “The percentage of people who do not pay federal income taxes, and who are not claimed as dependents by someone who does pay them, jumped from 14.8 percent in 1984 to 49.5 percent in 2009.” That means 151.7 million Americans paid nothing in 2009. By comparison, 34.8 million tax filers paid no taxes in 1984.The rapid growth of Americans who don’t pay income taxes is particularly alarming for the fate of the American form of government, Beach and Tyrrell warned. Coupled with higher spending on government programs, it is already proving to be a major fiscal challenge.

 “This trend should concern everyone who supports America’s republican form of government,” Beach and Tyrrell wrote. “If the citizens’ representatives are elected by an increasing percentage of voters who pay no income tax, how long will it be before these representatives respond more to demands for yet more entitlements and subsidies from non-payers than to the pleas of taxpayers to exercise greater spending prudence?”

US to pump weapons into Syrian warzone?

<a href=”http://rt.com/s/swf/player5.4.swf?file=http://rt.com/files/news/us-syria-arms-opposition-907/ia030759683d294216fc9ca34ea152fac_syria-gayane.flv&image=http://rt.com/files/news/us-syria-arms-opposition-907/syrian-army-demonstrators-idlib.n.jpg&skin=http://rt.com/s/css/player_skin.zip&provider=http&abouttext=Russia%20Today&aboutlink=http://rt.com&autostart=false”>http://rt.com/s/swf/player5.4.swf?file=http://rt.com/files/news/us-syria-arms-opposition-907/ia030759683d294216fc9ca34ea152fac_syria-gayane.flv&image=http://rt.com/files/news/us-syria-arms-opposition-907/syrian-army-demonstrators-idlib.n.jpg&skin=http://rt.com/s/css/player_skin.zip&provider=http&abouttext=Russia%20Today&aboutlink=http://rt.com&autostart=false</a&gt;

 

The White House and US State Department are considering arming Syria’s rebels, claiming ongoing reports of government crackdowns would legitimize their actions. But it remains unclear what form the assistance would take.
Both US bodies made statements yesterday saying that new tactics would have to be adopted in order to curtail Regime forces’ bombardment of the city of Homs.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the US did not want to “take actions that would lead to the further militarization of Syria,” while at the same time signaling that “additional measures” would have to be adopted if the international community fails to reach an agreement on a resolution.
The press secretary did not elaborate as to the nature of these so-called “additional measures.”
State department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland echoed these sentiments, saying that if Assad did not “yield to the pressure that we are all bringing to bear, we may have to consider additional measures.” She then said that no possibilities “had been taken off the table.”
The statements hint at a shift in US policy where before the Obama administration had categorically ruled out the possibility of military aid.
There is a strong contingent in the US congress pushing for the arming of the Syrian opposition, with Senator John McCain once again calling for military aid on Monday, although he emphasized that the US should not do so directly.
Meanwhile, the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) said on Wednesday it was coming to the view that military intervention is the only solution to the nearly year-old crisis that has killed thousands in Syria.
“We are really close to seeing this military intervention as the only solution. There are two evils, military intervention or protracted civil war,” Basma Kodmani, a senior SNC official, told a press conference in Paris.
However, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US joint chief of staff warned against support until US intelligence had more information on the opposition forces at work in Syria.
“I think it’s premature to take a decision to arm the opposition movement in Syria, because I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point,” he said to news agency CNN.
RT’s Gayane Chichakyan investigated the possible consequences of the US push for regime change in an interview with former US presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. He cited the possibility that the addition of military aid could be the catalyst that pushes Syria into chaos.
“I’m against putting weapons in and aiding the anti-Assad resistance, because an all-out war there could be a disaster that leads to a failed state there,” Buchanan told Chichakyan.
Friends or foes of Syria?
The US and other UN members are due to meet in Tunisia on Friday in a Friends of Syria group forum. The group is pushing for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and representatives of the Syrian opposition will be in attendance at the meeting. The possibility of military intervention is unlikely to be discussed with humanitarian aid and possible sanctions on Damascus taking central stage at the forum.
Russia will not attend the meeting as it believes the Friends of Syria group to be biased in favor of the opposition. Aleksey Pushkov, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia’s Lower House of Parliament explained Russia’s stance on the meeting to RT.
“The sole purpose of that conference is not to find a way out of the current situation, but to promote the idea that the conflict can only be resolved if Assad leaves,” said Pushkov.
He went on to say he had met with President Assad and representatives of two opposition organizations and that he did not get the impression that it was “the people vs. Assad in this conflict”.
“A faction of the people is opposing the regime, while another part supports Mr. Assad, while yet another faction does not want Syria to fall into chaos,” Pushkov said.
China’s presence at the Friends of Syria forum is also unconfirmed. The Asian nation vetoed a previous Security Council resolution on the Syrian conflict along with Russia on the basis it was unbalanced.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that Beijing was “currently researching the function, mechanism and other aspects of the meeting.”

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US military intelligence: ‘Iran won’t start the war’

Published: 17 February, 2012, 01:16

 
A soldier carries ammunition in southern Iran December 31, 2011 (Reuters / Fars News / Hamed Jafarnejad)

A soldier carries ammunition in southern Iran December 31, 2011 (Reuters / Fars News / Hamed Jafarnejad)

TAGS: MilitaryNuclearIranUSAIsraelWar

In a briefing over the escalating hostilities between the US and Iran, American intelligence officials say it is unlikely that Iran will initiate any military action against the United States.

If and when the US does launch a strike on Iran, however, the consequences could be catastrophic.

Speaking from Washington, DC this week, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess said an attack at the hands of Iran is unlikely, unless, of course, the US acts first. Burgess also added that, despite increased sanctions imposed by the US and a build up of American military forces surrounding the country, Iran is unlikely to halt the nuclear program that has become the cause of international concern.

“Iran today has the technical, scientific and industrial capability to eventually produce nuclear weapons. While international pressure against Iran has increased, including through sanctions, we assess that Tehran is not close to agreeing to abandoning its nuclear program,” Burgess said.

The United States and some of its allies insist that Iran is producing nuclear warheads; Iran says their research is working towards atomic energy, not nukes. As the US continues to come down on Iran for allegation of a weapons program, Burgess warns that Tehran shows no signs of terminating their efforts anytime soon.

If the US tries to terminate it themselves, however, there could be trouble.

“Iran can close the Strait of Hormuz at least temporarily, and may launch missiles against United States forces and our allies in the region if it is attacked,” Burgess explained this week to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“Iran could also attempt to employ terrorist surrogates worldwide. However, the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict,” the lieutenant general added.

With an Iran-initiated attack unlikely in the eyes of the American intelligence community, that gives the US an upper hand in deciding on a date to begin an assault of their own.

Recent weeks have seen escalating concerns over an Iran-Israel conflict and how the US could end up at war if they decide to come to the aid of their Israeli allies. Burgess told the committee, “To the best of our knowledge Israel has not decided to attack Iran.” But given the lovey-dovey relationship between the allies, an attack out of Israel would likely prompt the US to begin an attack immediately.

At that point, warns Burgess, a retaliation in the form of an international terrorist network masterminded by the Iranians and a possible nuclear assault could become an immediate reality.

Neither the US nor Israel have confirmed that they intend to attack Iran, but the two friendly countries have made plans for a massive missile drill scheduled for later this year. The move will send thousands of US troops to Israel, where they will be close to thousands of other Americans stationed in nearby nations.

In the few months since a US surveillance drone was hijacked by Iran during an attempted spy mission, Tehran has teased Washington and insisted that it has decoded the stealth technology of the aircraft. The US has responded by mobilizing fleets and ground troops to the tune of tens of thousands around the Arabian Gulf and the nations that surround Iran. Additionally, the US has equipped many countries that neighbor Iran with weaponry capable of crushing their foe.