Iran is under enemy attack on four fronts in a war never acknowledged as such by the regime in Tehran or admitted by the aggressors.
The advantage to Iran of this shadow conflict is that it is not obliged to respond. Its leaders are therefore free to bend all their energies to propping up their Islamic Revolutionary regime. The advantage to the attackers is that they can keep on battering the Islamic Republic without risking an open clash and bring their hammers down on one front after another without warning.
In the last three months, four such offensives were launched against Iran, starting in July:
1. The cyber-attack:
The Stuxnet virus planted in Iran's nuclear and military control networks seriously damaged those systems. This attack is still ongoing, defying all attempts to exorcise the wily worm.
(This offensive was exclusively covered from its outset by DEBKA-Net-Weekly. See Issue 463: The Stuxnet Malworm's First Strike.)
2. Rockets destroy secret missile launchers:
On Tuesday, October 12, the day before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flew to Beirut, three massive explosions blasted through one of Iran's top-secret military installations, the underground store holding Shihab-3 intermediate-range ballistic missiles which were held ready for launching against US targets in Iraq and Israel in the event of war.
An unknown number of missiles, their launchers and warheads, including some tri-conic nosecones, were destroyed at the site beneath the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Imam Ali Base near the city of Khorramabad, in the Lorestan province of southwestern Iran.
The base is also home to IRGC's main missile force, the Al-Hadid Brigade, 18 of whose members were killed and 14 injured in the blast, according the official communiqué in Tehran – probably more, according to our sources.
The victims' funerals took place Thursday, October 14 at the same time as Ahmadinejad stood at the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbail belting out another prediction of Israel's imminent "disappearance."
Iran fears Israeli UAV-borne rockets blasted its Shehab-3 store
Our intelligence sources report that Iran began its inquiry into the disaster to the missile armory by looking for traces of an infiltrator who managed to penetrate one of its most closely-guarded facilities and blow up the weapons tucked away inside deep tunnels. When they found no sign of a trespasser, they turned to the theory that American or Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles had flown in from Iraq and somehow found their way past the twists and turns of the underground passages until they found their pre-programmed targets – the missiles and their launchers – and blew them up with rockets.
Iranian investigators were pointed in that direction by Syrian military intelligence which gave them data on Israeli UAV rocket practices against underground targets, including several on the buried command centers of Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Namma, south of Beirut.
Israeli tacticians to have found a way of using the deep shafts leading straight down from the surface openings to the command facilities below as testing-ranges for weapons designed to blow up targets sunk deep underground.
Acting on this theory, Iranian investigators began combing through the rubble at the Imam Ali base in search of fragments of the Israeli guided supersonic missile Jumper which fits the Syrian description.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources describe this missile as powered by a two-pulse rocket motor with low radar and acoustic signatures, GPS/INS guidance gear and four steering surfaces on the aft section.
It was basically configured for stationary targets designated by geographical coordinates. The Jumper's accuracy is unaffected by low visibility or weather conditions; its precision may be optimized by an optional laser-guidance unit. It is 180 cm long and 15 cm in diameter. Each launch unit weighs about 1.5 tons and can be deployed by air or land and operate in an unattended mode, without requiring the support or presence of operators, on the principle of Dial and Hit.
Sanctions begin to hit the ordinary Iranian
The offensive by sanctions is turning out to be a lot more effective than Tehran is willing to admit.
On Tuesday, October 19, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei commented that the Iranian people had lived under sanctions since the early days of the Islamic Revolution and learned how to confront them.
He said this when he arrived at the holy Iranian city of Qom (for a visit whose purpose is disclosed in a separate item in this issue). But his words made little impression on the ordinary Iranian. After all, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources report, since early October, the Iranian currency has dropped one-fifth of its value against the basket of leading currencies, there is a rush on the banks to withdraw foreign currency, especially the US dollar, and oil exports have plunged by 13.3 percent – or more than 600,000 barrels a day. This is the steepest decline since the late 1970s and costs the government about $16 billion in net revenue loss.
Moreover, applications for new building licenses have fallen by 40 percent sending the private construction industry into a slump. Iran's credit rating is in free fall as a result of pressure from Washington on governments, banks and businesses to refuse to extend letters of credit for financial enterprises.
Tuesday, Oct 19, Tehran confirmed that some European airports are refusing to sell its carriers fuel; its flagship carrier has stopped making unscheduled stops en route to Tehran because London refuses to extend refueling services.
All this means that the basket of penalties wielded by US Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey is beginning to bite painfully all the way down to the Iranian in the street. It consists of UN sanctions, beefed up by unilateral US measures and steps taken by European governments and firms to cut off trade with the Islamic Republic.
Levey was in Ankara this week on a mission to persuade Turkish businesses and companies to join the sanctions regime against Iran. They would have to undercut their prime minister, Tayyep Recip Erdogan, who voted against sanctions, defends Iran's nuclear program and is proud of their warm bilateral friendship. Their trade ties are expanding fast, Erdogan boasts, and will be boosted from $10 billion to $30 billion in five years.
The USS Abraham Lincoln docks at Manama
The Saudi and Egyptian armies, navies and air forces secretly launched their first ever joint military maneuvers this week under the codename Tabuk-2. It ended Wednesday, Oct. 20.
Acting Defense and Aviation Minister Prince Khaled Bin-Sultan, who commanded the exercise, said the two military forces had agreed on doctrinal unification. Our military sources interpret this as meaning that the two armies are getting set for joint action in a war contingency with Iran.
4. Military muscle:
This week the US applied more military pressure on Tehran when Sunday, Oct. 17, the USS Abraham Lincoln docked at the Fifth Fleet headquarters at Manama, Bahrain, thereby raising the number of US carriers in the Persian Gulf to two, for the first time in as many years. Until now, the Obama administration kept the number of carriers opposite Iran down to one inline with his policy of engaging Iran in diplomacy to halt its progress toward building a nuclear weapon. Adding a second carrier to the USS Harry S. Truman and its marine air force might already present raises the number of warplanes facing Iran to 120 and is therefore a game changer.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Washington sources say this move relays two administration messages to Tehran:
First: The Six Power talks due to open with Iran in early November will be backed by American military leverage. To date, Washington has not invoked the UN Security Council's permission to search Iranian or other vessels suspected of carrying banned cargoes to the Islamic Republic. Tehran has threatened to resort to force if its vessels are intercepted for searches.
Wednesday, Oct. 20, Brig. Gen. Hussein Salami, commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards issued a warning: "The enemies of Iran should know the Islamic establishment's red lines and not trespass them."
Second: If diplomatic engagement fails once again, the US reserves the freedom and capability for military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Last minute: Thursday night, Oct. 21, the Obama administration padded the $60 billion weapons package for Saudi Arabia submitted to congress with several additional items including 1,000 2,000-pound guided bombs, described by our military sources as the most advanced bunker busters. They add a sharp new edge to US and Saudi intentions towards Iran and its nuclear program.
Might not the four war offensives buffeting the Islamic republic which he heads have weakened Ahmadinejad and been the cause of his bumbling performance in Lebanon on Oct. 14-15? And that would be without taking into accord the discord preying on the ruling echelon?
In DEBKA-Net-Weekly 466 article of Oct. 21, 2010
An Undeclared Covert War Takes Its Toll on Iran:
Whose Rockets Knocked out Iran's Ballistic Missile Launchers?
The second sentence of the para beginning "Our intelligence sources" should read:
When they found no sign of a trespasser, they turned to the theory that American or Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles launched from Iraq had fired small cruise missiles that somehow found their way past the twists and turns of the underground passages…