The Israeli news outlet DebkaFile reports that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured), warned the country's top military chiefs during a recent war council meeting to expect "war within weeks." According to DebkaFile,
While retaliation had been exhaustively drilled in regular military exercises in the past year, Khamenei ordered the biggest fortification project in Iran’s history to save its nuclear program from even the mightiest of America’s super-weapons. Rocks are being gathered from afar, piled on key nuclear installations, covered with many tons of poured concrete and finally plated with steel.
The news directly contradicts other reports that an Israeli attack on Iran has been postponed until the spring of 2013.
Haaretz correspondent Amir Oren wrote that Israel delayed its plans to launch an attack due to a war simulation that produced unwelcome results. During that simulation, experts discovered that Iran would be able to retaliate with a single missile strike that had the ability to kill 200 Americans. He explained,
At 8:58 P.M. on Tuesday, Israel’s 2012 war against Iran came to a quiet end. The capricious plans for a huge aerial attack were returned to the deep recesses of safes and hearts. The war may not have been canceled but it has certainly been postponed. For a while, at least, we can sound the all clear: It won’t happen this year. Until further notice, Israel Air Force Flight 007 will not be taking off.
In April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel will delay an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities until several weeks or months before Israel’s elections in 2013. Seattle-based political blogger Richard Silverstein wrote,
A senior Likud politician told my confidential Israeli source that Bibi Netanyahu has decided to delay an Israeli attack on Iran until some weeks or possibly months before the next scheduled Israeli election. That will happen by October 2013 unless Bibi determines he wants to go to the nation earlier.
At the same time Netanyahu made that announcement, some officials had also indicated that they are waiting to see the outcome of discussions between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 group — consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China — before officially embarking on a military strike.
“It could happen this year, but also 2013 is a possibility,” said an Israeli senior official. “We will need to wait to see the effect sanctions and diplomacy have on Iran and what the regime decides to do.”
But the recent Debka report indicates a strong possibility that war with Iran could be sooner. Khamenei’s announcement was made at a July 27 meeting with what he called the “last war council.” According to Debka:
Present were Defense Minister General Ahmad Vahidi, Khamenei’s military adviser General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, Armed Forces Chief Major General Seyed Hassan Firuzabadi, Revolutionary Guards Corps commander General Mohammad Ali Jafari and Al Qods Brigades chief General Qassem Soleimani. The commanders of the air force, the navy and ground forces were also there.
Each of the participants was tapped to report on the readiness of his branch or sector for shouldering its contingency mission.
The possibility of war with Iran was heightened prior to Khamenei’s announcement, however, as Iran confirmed its plans to close the Strait of Hormuz — through which 33 percent of the world’s oil shipments pass every day — earlier this month.
“We have a (contingency) plan for the blockade of the Strait of Hormuz, but its implementation requires the decision and order of the commander in chief (the Leader),” Major General Hassan Firouzabadi told reporters. “The West might think we are just bluffing with the blocking of the Strait of Hormuz but we already have some good plans how to do that,” Firouzabadi was quoted by Fars news agency as saying.
The United States responded to the announcement by sending underwater sea drones to target mines and prevent the blocking of the strait.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced that new pipelines would be opened to circumvent the Strait of Hormuz in an effort to reduce Iran’s influence.
The world now has an idea of the impact the closing of the Strait of Hormuz after false reports that it was closed drove up oil prices to somewhere between $300 and $500 a barrel.
There have been a variety of indications from the Obama administration that war with Iran is an ever-present consideration. In March, President Obama told reporters that the window of opportunity on handling a nuclear Iran diplomatically was closing. And he made similar saber-rattling statements one week ago during a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, warning that the opportunity for a diplomatic solution was “shrinking,” and advising Tehran to use the opportunity to engage in diplomatic talks with world leaders in order to avoid “even worse consequences.”
While Obama did declare during that press conference that there was still “time and space” for a diplomatic solution rather than a military strike, he stated that the window of opportunity for that was disappearing.
According to U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, the United States is now fully prepared for a military strike on Iran. Unbeknownst to Shapiro, his remarks were recorded and aired on Israeli television, though the comments were not meant to be heard by the general public.
“It would be preferable to resolve this diplomatically, and through the use of pressure, than to use military force,” Shapiro observed in May, adding, “But that does not mean that option isn’t available. Not just available — it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready.”
He also said, “We believe that there is some time — not an unlimited amount of time. In practice, this is a brief window in which we can still use diplomacy to achieve our goals. At a certain stage we are going to have to decide whether diplomacy isn't going to work. We want to give it every chance of succeeding.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, prior to embarking on a trip to Israel, denied that some of his discussions will include a time frame for attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities. And U.S. aircraft carriers remain stationed in the waters surrounding Iran.
Photo of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: AP Images