Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has put the country on a war footing having decided that the threats by the United States, Israel and NATO members Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Holland to strike Iran's nuclear facilities should be taken with the utmost seriousness.
Sunday, Nov. 6, two days before the publication of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s critical report, Khamenei summoned the regime's top officials and commanders to his office for a tour d'horizon of Iran's readiness for a confrontation.
By taking this stand, the Supreme Leader, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources report, put an end to the arguments among three establishment factions over whether the US, Israel and NATO powers were saber-rattling in earnest or faking it to destabilize the regime by scaring 70 million people into believing that a Western offensive was coming down on their heads, brought on by their government's aggressive nuclear policy.
1. The military faction won out over the other two by persuading Khamenei that the Western-Israeli threat is not only genuine but could be realized at any moment. This faction is made up of a formidable array of top military and Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) officers: IRGC chief Gen. Ali Mohammed Jafari, the al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Navy commander Adm. Habibollah Sayyar, Head of the Basij Forces Gen. Nagdio Mohammad-Reza and Commander of Iran's ground forces Gen. Brig. Ahmad-Reza Bourdastan.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi offered this enigmatic view: "Let them publish their report. One can die only once and even grief passes."
He appeared to be advising the Islamic Republic to face up to the inevitable without fear.
2. The position taken by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi at the head of the second faction was that an attack on Iran is not certain but the threat should not be taken lightly. This week, Ahmadinejad maintained that if Iran did not prepare itself for a possible attack, it could face destruction and be thrown back 500 years.
Then, Tuesday, the president gathered his closest advisers around him for an apocalyptic message: "The military showdown with the West and Israel is close. It can no longer be prevented."
3. This faction warned that plunging into reckless action would give the US and Israel a pretext for attacking Iran's nuclear facilities. Tehran must exercise the utmost caution in its responses to avoid giving its enemies cause for war. This group's spokesman is Mohammed Reza Qalidaf, the Mayor of Tehran and until five years ago one of the four IRGC top commanders.
The Guards mark 102 US Mid-East targets
Gen. Soleimani launched the military review which followed by spreading out a map on which he had marked the first 102 American military targets in the Middle East designated for missile attack the moment the US or Israel went into action against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Some of the missiles were to be fired from locations outside Iran.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report he was referring to missiles to be launched from Syria by Iran's surrogates, the Lebanese and Iraqi Hizballlah, as well as al Qods and other cells.
Those missile teams, he reported, were standing by on the Syrian-Iraqi frontier ready for action. The plan is for them to step across the frontier, release their rockets against the US targets listed in their orders and immediately step back into Syria. This stratagem aimed to muddy the sources of the attack.
The IRGC chief also uncovered plans for Iraqi Hizballah fighters to shoot missiles from southern Iraq against the oil fields and terminals of the Persian Gulf emirates and set them on fire.
Those fighters have taken possession of 150 Scuds B and D which were in Iraqi army use up until 2003 and are now maintained in good order by Iranian technicians present in South Iraq under cover.
The Chairman of Iran's Nuclear Energy Agency Fereydoon Abbasi then reviewed his crash operation to transfer all the nuclear testing labs and equipment to underground structures safe from air and missile attack.
Not all the bunkers were finished, Abbasi said. But to save time, the transfers of essential installations had begun this week into unfinished underground chambers. This meant they would not be fully operational for some weeks, if not months.
In Abbasi's view, any US or Israeli operation would also seek to disrupt the country's strategic and civilian infrastructure.
Starting next week, he reported, top nuclear scientists, engineers and technicians would be collected from their homes and hidden in secret facilities for their protection.
Iran has 400 WMD-capable missiles
The IRGC Aerospace commander Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, who is responsible for Iran's missile systems whether for attack or defense, offered the most extensive briefing, the crux of which was the disclosure of 400 operational Shahab-3 Kadar missiles capable of carrying nuclear, chemical and different kinds of poison gas warheads.
(British Foreign Secretary William Hague reported to the Commons on June 29, 2011 that Iran had been carrying out "covert ballistic missile tests and rocket launches, including testing missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload…")
Like the speaker before him, Gen. Hajizadeh stressed the monumental effort his forces had made in recent months to transfer the missiles into underground tunnels and speed up the construction of launching silos.
He reckoned that 5-8 percent of all missile barrages fail on average; another 10-15 percent miss their aim; and an unknown proportion would be intercepted by American, Israel, Saudi or Gulf anti-missile missiles.
But he remained optimistic, certain that hundreds would still reach their targets.
Gen. Hajizadeh added that Hizballah in Lebanon and the Hamas and Jihad Islami in the Gaza Strip would shoot 1,000 more long- and medium-range missiles in the first hours of the war, plus 3,000 short-range rockets such as multiple-rocket Katyushas and mortar rounds.
This barrage would cover every part of Israel.
Twelve military districts
The IRGC and Basij Forces commanders then reviewed their war preparations in Iran's 12 military districts or sectors. Each one has a separate autonomous command which functions independently of the supreme command and other district centers.
Established in mid-2010 as insurance against the breakdown of authority in one district having a knock-on effect on the others, the system was designed as an obstacle course for curtailing the spread of a popular uprising across the country.
In early 2011, it was converted from civilian to military use as part of a master plan for keeping the various parts of the country independently afloat under foreign military assault.
Navy Commander Adm. Sayyar described how the Iranian fleet was arrayed in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea in deployments for thwarting Western and Israeli submarine attacks on targets in Iran and safeguarding Its coasts from landings by foreign marine and special forces.