A-O Intelligence Digest for 10-24-10
The A-O Intelligence Digest
For October 24. 2010
Editor’s Note: We are making public the current edition of The A-O Intelligence Digest, which is normally reserved solely for donors of The Alpha-Omega Report website. We have decided to make this public due in part to extraordinary circumstances and events described as well as the fact that technically, we’re not quite finished with software upgrades to our donor’s section of the website reserved for The A-O Intelligence Digest. We did not wish to delay any longer the dissemination of this information.
A Game Changer Event?
Iranian Plans Go Awry
A little-noticed event took place in the Middle East on October 12, which has apparently thrown a monkey wrench into Iranian plans for war with Israel, at least for the near future.
Until Tuesday, October 12, our own A-O intelligence sources anticipated an Iranian-sponsored move by Hezbollah to take control of the Lebanese government as either a preliminary necessity before launching war against Israel or as a catalyst for Israeli interference that would lead to war with Israel.
The Hezbollah takeover of the Lebanese government was scripted by Iranian planners to transpire shortly after Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s two-day visit to Lebanon on Wednesday, October 13 and Thursday, October 14. The idea of a Hezbollah coup was no secret. Newspapers throughout the region had published speculative intelligence reports and rumors. Diplomats from various nations were scurrying around the Middle East for consultations. The White House sent a special envoy to Damascus with an explicit warning to Syrian President Assad. Lebanon’s Prime Minister had made quick visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia for consultations in advance of the Iranian President’s arrival.
By the time Iranian President Ahmadinejad arrived in Beirut, the entire region was on pins and needles. The A-O Report was operating at a “Red Alert” publishing level, prepared to post updates around the clock as developments warranted. Israel’s military was placed on the highest pre-war alert level, as was the Syrian and Lebanese military. Everyone, it seems, was waiting for the other shoe (a coup or the start of a civil war) to drop, either during Ahmadinejad’s visit or by Monday, October 18. Instead, nothing happened.
The question to ask is “Why did nothing happen, or did something happen to alter the anticipated course of events?” We now understand that something did happen, which went unnoticed, by and large in the mainstream English news media outlets. This Digest edition will focus on what did happen to alter events and the implications.
On Tuesday, October 12, as the Iranian president and his entourage were in the final stages of departure for Lebanon, a series of fiery explosions ripped through a strategic military base known as the “Imam Ali” base located in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran, 35 kilometers from the city of Khorramabad. This site was selected many years ago as a missile base by the Iranians because of its altitude, which enables more precise targeting for ballistic missile launches. The terrain in which it is located makes it difficult for an enemy air or ground attack.
Burrowed under the Imam Ali Base is a whole network of wide tunnels dug deep underground for the purposes of the storage and launch of ballistic missiles, most particularly, Iran’s medium range Shehab-3 ballistic missile, which is the mainstay of its strategic missile force.
The Imam Ali base lies 400 kilometers from Baghdad as well as critically important American bases in central Iraq. The base is only 1,250 kilometers from Tel Aviv and central Israel. So, potential U.S. and Israeli targets are well within the Shehab-3 missile's 1,800-2,500-kilometer operational range.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps maintains this very strategic military base known as the “Imam Ali Base.” The IRGC’s Al-Hadid Brigade which is assigned to handle Iran’s ballistic missile program and particularly the medium range ballistic missile known as the Shehab-3.
The website – Global Security.org – a military intelligence website maintains a huge archive of intelligence reports and statistics on the most important military nations of the world. In its section on Iran, there is a special page devoted to the Imam Ali Base. Below is a small portion of their background on the base:
“Imam Ali Base is situated 35 km away from Khorramabad on the road to Koohdasht. The base’s location is in the south of Mount Seffid Kooh in a mountain pass called Heroor Pass. Imam Ali base belongs to Al-Hadid Brigade, a subordinate unit of the IRGC Missile Force. The missile launching sites are mobile and hidden in the heights. Imam Ali Base’s air distance from Khorram abad is 20 km.”
While the archived information is several years old, it confirms the existence of the base and its association with the IRGC as a missile base. The webpage contains information about the base prior to the development of the Shehab-3 ballistic missiles. The page also shows satellite images of the base denoting its location in very mountainous terrain.
From our diligent research of intelligence reports, including Russian intelligence, we know that the Imam Ali base served as an assembly facility for missiles, as well as a warehouse for both missiles and mobile missile launchers for the Shehab-3 missiles.
What we do NOT know is just how many missiles and launchers were being stored at this base on Tuesday, October 12, 2010. Various, different intelligence sources, reports and speculation put the quantity of missiles at anywhere from 15 to the entire Shehab-3 inventory of operational missiles. Equally unknown is the quantity of mobile missile launchers which carry the Shehab-3 to clandestine launching locations.
There are reports that the entire inventory of mobile launch trucks and platforms were being housed at the Imam Ali base. Other reports indicate that only a “majority” or a “substantial” number of launchers were either damaged or destroyed.
We strongly suspect that Iran did not and does not keep all of its “eggs” or missiles in one basket – but there is the possibility that all or most Shehab-3s, which might have been previously dispersed, were temporarily returned to Imam Ali for inspection and maintenance. Why?
Perhaps the IRGC leadership ordered the missiles returned to Imam Ali because it is the designated maintenance and production facility for the Shehab-3. IRGC leaders may have ordered all missiles to be inspected, tested and repaired due to the now infamous Stuxnet computer worm-virus. According to some intelligence sources, Stuxnet was thought to have infected the computer guidance systems of Iran’s entire fleet of missiles along with other numerous military computer applications.
If Stuxnet had indeed forced such a mass inspection of Shehab-3 missiles at Imam Ali, then it is possible that much of Iran’s Shehab-3 fleet was located at the Imam Ali base at the time of the explosions. Keep in mind however, that this is simply speculation. The Iranians are keeping details of this incident a secret.
Proof: Something Catastrophic Happened
We do know however that a fiery disaster took place at the Imam Ali base because the Iranian government has admitted that a fire and explosion which the Iranian official news agency, FARS, plus the Tehran Times (and other Iranian outlets) reported, noting that 18 people were killed with another 14 people injured. See various links below for confirmation.
Iran’s Press TV:
Associated Press (AP) Newswire from Google:
The Jerusalem Post: - Suspects Kurd Terrorists Responsible
Such mainstream news media coverage confirms that something happened at the Imam Ali base in Iran. The Iranians claim it was merely a fire which spread to an ammunitions bunker triggering a single explosion. Other intelligence reports argue to the contrary.
The most notable of the published intelligence reports is Debka.com but Debka is not the only outfit claiming more than a mere ammunition bunker exploded. They’re simply the only intelligence publisher to make the event details public.
Debka published an alternate account which described 3 explosions in the underground tunnels at the base. Debka reports the damage:
“Debkafile's military and intelligence sources report the site held most of the Shehab-3 medium-range missile launchers Iran had stocked for striking US forces in Iraq and Israel in the event of war - some set to deliver triple warheads (tri-conic nosecones). …
“Somehow, a mysterious hand rigged three blasts in quick succession deep inside those tunnels, destroying a large number of launchers and causing enough damage to render the facility unfit for use.”
Debka also reported in its “Weekly” paid subscriber report that the public Iranian story of the incident is backwards from what really happened. Debka claims that three explosions occurred first, deep underground in the tunnels and those explosions then set off fires that spread to the munitions storage area causing the munitions storage area to explode. Debka also claims that the blast took out “most” of Iran’s inventory of medium range ballistic missiles.
Other intelligence sources report a range of different outcome assessments ranging anywhere from 15 mobile launchers being damaged or destroyed to no missiles destroyed as well as some reports that the entire inventory of mobile launchers and perhaps a dozen or 15 Shehab-3 missiles destroyed or damaged.
Other reports note that perhaps many of Iran’s most important missile scientists and technicians were killed or injured in the blasts, leaving Iran with a devastating loss of key personnel needed to develop, maintain and launch missiles. The incident may have struck a severe blow not only in the short term, but also in the long term for Iran’s ability to build current missile systems and develop new, solid-fuel missiles.
Was it a Cyber Attack?
If as we suspect, the Stuxnet computer virus was thought to have been involved, key Iranian computer experts may have been on the scene and perhaps also killed in the explosions. If so, that may further hamper Iran’s ability to rid itself of the Stuxnet worm virus within Iran’s computerized military systems.
One aspect of note in this story is that all intelligence experts in the West believe the number of killed and injured is likely to be far greater than Iranian public admissions.
Sources leaking from inside Iran to the West also indicate the casualties were far greater than the official government story given to the public. There is speculation that hundreds of personnel may have been killed and or injured.
Such speculation leads us to wonder just how much damage was inflicted to Iran’s ability to conduct strategic missile strikes against Israel? While we do not know of the quantities of missiles and or missile launchers that were destroyed, we can make some educated guesses.
The Global Security website has a special webpage published which contains a massive amount of technical information and descriptions about Iran’s Shehab-3 ballistic missile. At the end of the second paragraph on the page, Global Security states:
“Through Spring 2010 there was an estimated 300 Shahab-3's of various types deployed in Iran.”
Keep in mind that the missile has slightly different production variants and or upgrades since production first began on a limited basis 9 years ago. At the link above, scroll down to see pictures of the missile itself as well as its mobile launcher truck transport. Keep in mind that the Global Security article on the Shehab-3 was published just 5 months ago on May 21, 2010, so we assume the estimate of 300 missiles is a reasonably close estimate.
The link shown below from Global Security shows all of Iran’s missile types, status and production inventories if any. http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/iran/missile.htm
The GS chart shows additional missiles believed to be in Iran’s inventory which we should note:
Shehab-1 = 50 to 300 missiles = aka Scud B
Shehab-2 = 50 to 150 missiles = aka Scud C
Shehab-3 = 300 missiles = aka Zetzal 3
Shehab-4 = 16 to 35 missiles = aka No Dong B
The above missiles are all liquid-fueled missiles and are not nearly as accurate and reliable as a solid-fuel rocket. They are also easier to shoot down than a solid fuel rocket.
Iran’s Most Advanced Missiles
Iran just developed a solid fuel rocket known as the Sejjil and began production last year. In the above linked chart showing all Iranian missiles, GS estimates that Iran has already built and begun deploying at least 50 but less than 90 such rockets or missiles. It is their most advanced ballistic missile to date. It has a much longer range of 2,000 to 2,500 kilometers. Because it is a solid fuel rocket it can be readied for launch quickly and does not need as much as 24 to 48 hours to be prepared for launch like a liquid fueled rocket.
Solid fuel rockets are also inherently safer to prepare for launch with far less chance for an accidental explosion.
It should also be noted on the GS missile chart that Iran also has 12 Soviet-era cruise missiles known as the X-55 or KH-55 cruise missile. These were reportedly purchased by Iran via the Ukraine on the black market about ten years ago. There are unconfirmed intelligence reports that these cruise missiles also contained nuclear warheads, albeit dismantled and supposedly rendered permanently as non-functional. They were designed to be launched from Soviet aircraft while in flight with a range of 3,000 kilometers. It is not known if Iran has made these missiles operational and of use for Iranian aircraft or if they are merely to be prototype models for future Iranian-built versions.
Another point of note regarding Iran’s inventory of missiles concerns the Shehab-4 missile. The Shehab-4 only went into limited production, as we understand it, but it has an estimated range of between 3,200 and 4,000 kilometers. The Shehab-4 could reach much of Europe, however Iran may have only as few as 15 to as many as 35 such missiles. They are, in reality variants of the Shehab-3. Is it possible that these were being kept at the Imam Ali base? We do wonder.
The Shehab-4 has been used as a test vehicle for space launches including at least one satellite launch. The Iranians however, seem to have shelved the Shehab-4 in favor of the new Sejjil solid fuel rocket for both space and satellite efforts as well as for military warhead capabilities.
The Sejjil missile is believed to be based out of newly excavated site on the outskirts of the city of Marivan in the western province of Kurdistan which borders Iraq. We do not suspect that any of the Sejjil missiles were at the Imam Ali base on October 12, when the explosions took place.
A New Iranian Threat Assessment
If Iran has had 300 Shehab-3 missiles in deployment, as of October 1, 2010; we strongly suspect that they have been scattered in various strategic locations throughout Iran and not all located at the Imam Ali base.
Even if the Imam Ali base was warehousing most or all of the non-deployed missiles, which we doubt, there would still likely be 100 or more Shehab-3 missiles operationally deployed elsewhere inside Iran. And probably more than 150 to perhaps 200 such missiles deployed elsewhere. This would particularly be the case – IF – Iran was in the process of preparing the missiles for a surprise attack against Israel by mid-October. If that were the case, then logical, strategic planning would dictate that most mobile launchers as well as the entire missile arsenal would have been previously dispersed so that Iran’s loss of Shehab-3 missiles and mobile launchers would not have been a complete and total loss.
We suspect that the Imam Ali incident destroyed no more than 15 to 20 Shehab-3 missiles. As for the mobile launchers, we again suspect that perhaps 15 to perhaps 30 mobile launchers were damaged or destroyed in the explosions.
We do suspect the possibility that enough critically important personnel were killed or injured in the incident to seriously harm Iran’s ability to wage missile attacks in the following days and weeks afterwards.
Our own A-O Intel sources report that standard military doctrines for mobile missile launchers versus inventory should be roughly at a 3 -1 or 4 – 1 ratio. The Global Security article dated May of 2010 estimated a Shehab-3 inventory at around 300 missiles. If that number is accurate – and IF Iranian military leaders have kept to the standard military doctrine ratio of 3 to 1 or even a 4 to 1 ratio, then Iran’s mobile missile launcher inventory should range between 75 to 100 mobile launchers.
Even so, there is also the belief by some intelligence experts that perhaps half of the Iranian Shehab-3 inventory is assigned to fixed, stationary launchers located either underground or in mountain redoubts such as the Imam Ali base. If this is the case, then the amount of mobile launchers might be somewhere between 35 to 65 mobile launchers.
We do understand that some Israeli intelligence reports had placed the missile inventory at somewhere between 100 to 200 Shehab-3 missiles with half of those being assigned to fixed, stationary launchers. The Israelis then place the mobile launcher inventory from about 15 to as many as 35.
We understand that some intelligence analyst speculations suggest that 15 or more mobile launchers were stationed at Imam Ali while other analysts believe the entire mobile launcher inventory of perhaps three dozen were located at Imam Ali base. We suspect, however that Iran’s inventory of mobile missile launchers for the Shehab-3 is higher than what the Israeli intelligence reports have indicated. We therefore suspect that not all of the Iran’s mobile missile launchers for the Shehab-3 were stationed at the Imam Ali base.
Stuxnet Virus Strikes Again?
The only reason that all of the Shehab-3 mobile launchers might have been located at the Imam Ali base was for an inspection recall to test for the Stuxnet virus. While this seems like a distinct possibility if not a probability, we tend to approach the issue from a perspective that assumes some of the mobile launchers were not at the base at the time of the explosion incidents and thus Iran still retains a very potent ability to launch a significant amount of Shehab-3 missiles towards Israel and U.S. targets in Iraq.
Iranian War Plans Delayed By Weeks or Months?
If our suspicions are correct, the Imam Ali incident was more of a short term set back for Iran. Most likely, Iranian military leaders are conducting an extensive investigation into the cause of the incident. If the event was due to sabotage, military officials will likely need at least a few weeks to sort out the situation and ramp up security to a much higher level One intelligence source believes that, barring any Stuxnet issues, Iran could be back in a position to wage a missile war with Israel by perhaps mid-November.
We tend to accept this premise of a mid-November date, in part because of recent information we’ve received concerning certain U.S. military assets being readied for overseas assignments to the Middle East (but not Afghanistan) by mid-November. The latest report we received last week was vague but left us with the impression that the Pentagon expects the need to react to a new crisis of some sort in the Middle East besides Afghanistan or Iraq.
Perhaps the Pentagon may be anticipating some sort of Iranian military response in the next 30 days. Keep in mind that this is just a suspicion on our part.
Stuxnet Still a Likely Threat To Iran
We also understand that the Stuxnet virus is believed by some computer analysts to still be untamed within the Iranian military as recently as early October based upon efforts by the Iranians efforts to consult with Western computer experts. On that basis, we suspect that the Iranian military leaders are cautiously unwilling to commit their forces to any sort of military engagement until the Stuxnet problems are resolved and until they can adjust for the loss of whatever equipment was destroyed at the Imam Ali base.
It seems more likely that Iran will maintain a low-key profile for the next weeks until the Iranians have resolved both the Stuxnet virus problem and taken measures to work around the Imam Ali “accident” of October 12. We anticipate no significant Iranian provocations via their proxy forces on Israel’s borders, before mid-November and perhaps not until next spring. With such change in our outlook, we’ve now dropped our A-O Report Red Alert status and have returned to normal news coverage for now, unless or until circumstances warrant a change back to either a Yellow or Red Alert status.
In the meantime, we expect to hear Iranian news announcements of arrests of individuals charged with involvement in the Imam Ali explosions, but only if Iran indeed believes there was in fact sabotage. Debka.com is now reporting that U.S. and Israeli unmanned aerial drones were responsible for the attack, using special bunker-buster missiles. We have our own, serious doubts about such claims, but we wouldn’t totally rule out such reports either. However, it seems unlikely because Iran would likely have publicly made such claims and called for a UN Security Council meeting to file charges against the U.S. and Israel.
It remains to be seen whether or not Iran would point the finger of responsibility at Iraqi Kurds or Israeli and or U.S. forces, but after two weeks, it seems unlikely that the Iranians will make any accusations against foreign governments. This leads us to suspect that the Stuxnet virus or Iranian personnel ineptitude may have been responsible for the blasts.
It is the opinion of The A-O Report that ultimately, the incident involved Divine Intervention due to the fact that the time was not right for the outbreak of war in the middle of October, 2010. It remains to be seen as to when that time will come about.
Even so, the next 30 days should prove to be a very fascinating if not a pivotal time for what will follow in the coming weeks and months ahead.
A Few of the Other Source Reports/Commentaries