Iran on war alert over “US and Israeli concentrations” in Azerbaijan
In a rare move, Iran has declared a state of war on its northwestern border, debkafile's military and Iranian sources report. Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps men and equipment units are being massed in the Caspian Sea region against what Tehran claims are US and Israeli forces concentrated on army and air bases in Azerbaijan ready to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.
The announcement came on Tuesday, June 22 from Brig.-Gen Mehdi Moini of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), commander of the forces tasked with "repelling" this American-Israeli offensive. He said: "The mobilization is due to the presence of American and Israeli forces on the western border," adding, "Reinforcements are being dispatched to West Azerbaijan Province because some western countries are fueling ethnic conflicts to destabilize the situation in the region."
In the past, Iranian officials have spoken of US and Israel attacks in general terms. debkafile's Iranian sources note that this is the first time that a specific location was mentioned and large reinforcements dispatched to give the threat substance.
Other Iranian sources report that in the last few days, Israel has secretly transferred a large number of bomber jets to bases in Azerbaijan, via Georgia, and that American special forces are also concentrated in Azerbaijan in preparation for a strike.
No comment has come from Azerbaijan about any of these reports. Iranian Azerbaijan, the destination of the Revolutionary Guards forces reinforcements, borders on Turkey, Iraq and Armenia. Witnesses say long IRGC convoys of tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft units and infantry are seen heading up the main highways to Azerbaijan and then further north to the Caspian Sea.
On Tuesday, June 22, Dr. Uzi Arad, head of Israel's National Security Council and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest adviser, said "The latest round of UN Security Council sanctions on Iran is inadequate for thwarting its nuclear progress. A preemptive military strike might eventually be necessary."
debkafile's intelligence and Iranian sources point to three other developments as setting off Iran's war alert:
1. A certain (limited) reinforcement of American and Israeli forces has taken place in Azerbaijan. Neither Washington nor Jerusalem has ever acknowledged a military presence in this country that borders on Iran, but Western intelligence sources say that both keep a wary eye on the goings-on inside Iran from electronic surveillance bases in that country.
2. Iran feels moved to respond to certain US steps: The arrival of the USS Harry S. Truman Strike Group in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea and its war games with France and Israel, which included live-fire bombing practices against targets in Iran.
3. The execution of Abdolmalek Rigi, head of the Sunni Baluchi rebel organization (including the Iranian Baluchis), on June 20 was intended as a deterrent for Iran's other minorities. Instead, they are more restive than ever. Several Azeri breakaway movements operate in Iranian Azerbaijan in combination with their brethren across the border. Tehran decided a substantial buildup in the province would serve as a timely measure against possible upheavals.