Iran's army told to plan for war with West
Iran's Revolutionary Guards have been put on a war footing amid growing signs that the West is preparing to launch military action over Iran's nuclear programme.
An order from Gen Mohammed Ali Jaafari, the commander of the guards, raised the operational readiness status of the country's forces, initiating preparations for a potential enemy strike.
Western intelligence officials said the Islamic Republic had initiated plans to disperse long-range missiles, high explosives, artillery and guards units to key defensive positions.
The order was given in response to the mounting international pressure over Iran's nuclear programme. Preparation for a confrontation has gathered pace following last month's report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that produced evidence Iran was actively working to produce nuclear weapons.
The Iranian leadership fears the country is being subjected to a carefully co-ordinated attack by Western intelligence and security agencies to destroy key elements of its nuclear infrastructure.
Recent explosions have added to the growing sense of paranoia within Iran, with the regime fearing it will be the target of a surprise military strike by Israel or the US military.
Its ballistic missile programme suffered a major setback on November 12 after an explosion at the regime's main missile testing facility at Bidganeh, west of Tehran. At least 17 people died, including Gen Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, the head of Iran's missile research programme.
The IAEA report said Iranian scientists had worked to develop a missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Security analysts described Iran's missile advances as "a turning point" that had "profound strategic implications".
Last week another mysterious explosion caused significant damage to Iran's uranium conversion facility at Isfahan.
"It looks like the 21st century form of war," said Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
"It does appear that there is a campaign of assassinations and cyber war, as well as the semi-acknowledged campaign of sabotage."
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader, issued a directive to the heads of all the country's military, intelligence and security organisations to take all necessary measures to protect the regime.
Gen Jaafari responded to this directive by ordering Revolutionary Guards units to redistribute Iran's arsenal of long-range Shahab missiles to secret sites around the country, where they would be safe from enemy attack and could be used for retaliation attacks.
In addition, the Iranian air force has formed a number of "rapid reaction units", which have been carrying out extensive exercises to practise responding to an enemy air attack. (© Daily Telegraph, London)