Iran's Guards on war footing – London. Spy drone capture is US, Israel setback
DEBKAfile Special Report December 6, 2011, 6:56 AM (GMT+02:00)
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has placed the Revolutionary Guards on a war footing amid fears that the West and Israel are about to attack their nuclear program, the London Telegraph, which has good ties with British intelligence, reported early Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Monday, debkafile reported increasing indications that the Middle East is set for war, including an attack on Iran, between mid-December 2011 and mid-January 2012.
In obedience to Khamenei's directive to take all necessary measures to protect the regime, the Guards chief Gen. Mohammed Ali Jaafari has raised the operational readiness status of the country's forces in preparation for external strikes and covert attacks. He ordered Iran's arsenal of long-range Shahab missiles redistributed to secret sites around the country where they would be safe from enemy attack and could be used to launch retaliatory strikes; Guards units scattered to preset defense lines and air force "rapid reaction units" deployed after carrying out extensive exercises for responding to an enemy air attack on nuclear and strategic military targets.
Saturday, Dec. 3, Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak, when asked about a covert war against Iran, denied it was taking place. Twenty-hours later, this clandestine war peaked in a major coup for Iran, its capture of the sophisticated US RQ-170 Sentinel stealth reconnaissance drone. Tehran reported that, apart from slight damage, the aircraft was shot down complete with all its top-secret electronic systems in working condition.
An American military source confirmed that Iran had the RQ-170, but added there was "absolutely no indication the drone was shot down."
This leads to the conclusion that the Iranians were able to control the drone from a distance (over Afghanistan) and guide it across the border to land to Iran, say debkafile's military sources. The slight damage would then apply to the wings and may have been caused when it was brought in to land by an Iranian crew unused to handling an electronic warfare craft.
Our sources add that possession of the drone is more than just a major intelligence coup for Tehran; it has acquired an important military edge before any overt military operation has been launched. Western and Israeli war planners now have cause to fear that Iran has penetrated the heart of their most secret intelligence and electronic technological hardware for striking its nuclear infrastructure. If Tehran is capable of reaching out and guiding an American stealth drone into landing from a distance, it may also be able to control the systems of other aircraft, manned or unmanned.
This feat recalls Hizballah's surprise attack on an Israeli missile boat in the 2006 Lebanon war when its Chinese-made shore-to-ship C-802 missile was enabled by Iranian-manned coastal radar interference to override the ship's advanced electronic defense systems and so put the Israeli Navy out of action within range of the Lebanese coast.
According to an expert quoted by the Telegraph's senior military commentator Con Coughlin, the campaign of assassinations, cyber war and sabotage of recent weeks "looks like the 21st century form of war.