Iran's Revolutionary Guard has raised its alertness level fearing a military strike by a foreign power, Western intelligence sources told the U.K. newspaper the Telegraph on Monday.
According to the Telegraph report, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard Mohammed Ali Jaafari issued a command to raise operational readiness, fearing what the report called "potential external strikes and covert attacks. "
Raised readiness levels, the sources indicated, included plans to disperse the country's long-range missile batteries, as well as sending artillery and guard units to "key defensive positions."
The Telegraph report came after American and Israeli intelligence officials told the New York Times earlier Monday that a recent explosion at a military base near Tehran was a major setback for Iran's long-range missile program and completely destroyed the base.
The officials said that surveillance photos showed that the Iranian base was a central testing center for advanced solid-fuel missiles, which are better equipped than older, liquid-fuel designs to carry warheads long distances.
According to the report, satellite photos taken after the blast show that the base was almost completely destroyed, which amounts to a serious setback to Tehran's missile development, intelligence officials said.
Earlier this month, Iran reiterated that the explosion at a military base near Tehran that killed 17 members of the Revolutionary Guards was an accident.
Last week, a top Israeli security official said that the explosion could delay or stop further Iranian surface-to-surface missile development, but warned that it was far from halting all of Iran's military options.
Iran has vehemently denied that the blast was carried out by Israel or the United States, and Western intelligence and defense officials say the consequences – the setback of Iran's military program - are more important than the cause.
Anything that buys us time and delays the day when the Iranians might be able to mount a nuclear weapon on an accurate missile is a small victory, one Western intelligence official told the New York Times. At this point, well take whatever we can get, however it happens.
Also Monday, U.S. military officials said that they were concerned that a stealthy surveillance drone that crashed in Iran could give Tehran the opportunity to glean information about the classified program.
But experts said Monday that even if the Iranians found parts of the unmanned spy plane, they will likely get little from it. And since it probably fell from a high altitude, there may be very few large pieces to examine.
The RQ-170 — known as the Sentinel — has been used in Afghanistan for several years. U.S. officials acknowledge that the military lost control of one of the stealthy drones while it was flying a mission over western Afghanistan. The official IRNA news agency has said that Irans armed forces shot it down.
U.S. officials have rejected that claim.
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