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Iran Readies Plan to Close Strait of Hormuz

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 4:53 pm    Post subject: Iran Readies Plan to Close Strait of Hormuz Reply with quote

Iran Readies Plan to Close Strait of Hormuz

March 01, 2006
Kenneth R. Timmerman

Iran's Revolutionary Guards are making preparations for a massive assault on U.S. naval forces and international shipping in the Persian Gulf, according to a former Iranian intelligence officer who defected to the West in 2001.

The plans, which include the use of bottom-tethered mines potentially capable of destroying U.S. aircraft carriers, were designed to counter a U.S. land invasion and to close the Strait of Hormuz, the defector said in a phone interview from his home in Europe.

They would also be triggered if the United States or Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on Iran to knock out nuclear and missile facilities.

"The plan is to stop trade," the source said.

Between 15 and 16.5 million barrels of oil transit the Strait of Hormuz each day, roughly 20 percent of the world's daily oil production, according to the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration.

The source provided NewsMax parts of a more than 30-page contingency plan, which bears the stamp of the Strategic Studies Center of the Iranian Navy, NDAJA. The document appears to have been drafted in September or October of 2005.

The NDAJA document was just one part of a larger strike plan to be coordinated by a single operational headquarters that would integrate Revolutionary Guards missile units, strike aircraft, surface and underwater naval vessels, Chinese-supplied C-801 and C-802 anti-shipping missiles, mines, coastal artillery, as well as chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

The overall plans are being coordinated by the intelligence office of the Ministry of Defense, known as HFADA.

Revolutionary Guards missile units have identified "more than 100 targets, including Saudi oil production and oil export centers," the defector said. "They have more than 45 to 50 Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 missiles ready for shooting" against those targets and against Israel, he added.

The defector, Hamid Reza Zakeri, warned the CIA in July 2001 that Iran was preparing a massive attack on America using Arab terrorists flying airplanes, which he said was planned for Sept. 11, 2001. The CIA dismissed his claims and called him a fabricator.

The source also identified a previously unknown nuclear weapons site last year to this writer, which was independently confirmed by three separate intelligence agencies.

NewsMax showed the defector's documents to two native Persian-speakers who each have more than 20 years of experience analyzing intelligence documents from the Islamic Republic regime. They believed the documents were authentic.

A U.S. military intelligence official, while unable to authenticate the documents without seeing them, recognized the Strategic Studies Center and noted that the individual whose name appears as the author of the plan, Abbas Motaj, was head of the Iranian navy until late 2005.

A former Revolutionary Guards officer, contacted by NewsMax in Europe, immediately recognized the Naval Strategic Studies institute from its Persian-language acronym, NDAJA. He provided independent information on recent deployments of Shahab-3 missiles that coincided with information contained in the NDAJA plan.

The Iranian contingency plan is summarized in an "Order of Battle" map, which schematically lays out Iran's military and strategic assets and how they will be used against U.S. military forces from the Strait of Hormuz up to Busheir.

The map identifies three major areas of operations, called "mass kill zones," where Iranian strategists believe they can decimate a U.S.-led invasion force before it actually enters the Persian Gulf.

The kill zones run from the low-lying coast just to the east of Bandar Abbas, Iran's main port that sits in the bottleneck of the Strait of Hormuz, to the ports of Jask and Shah Bahar on the Indian Ocean, beyond the Strait.

Behind the kill zones are strategic missile launchers labeled as "area of chemical operations," "area of biological warfare operations," and "area where nuclear operations start."

Iran's overall battle management will be handled through C4I and surveillance satellites. It is unclear in the documents shared with NewsMax whether this refers to commercial satellites or satellite intelligence obtained from allies, such as Russia or China. Iran has satellite cooperation programs with both nations.

The map is labeled "the current status of military forces in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, 1384." 1384 is the Iranian year that ends on March 20, 2006.

Iran plans to begin offensive operations by launching successive waves of explosives-packed boats against U.S. warships in the Gulf, piloted by "Ashura" or suicide bombers.

The first wave can draw on more than 1,000 small fast-attack boats operated by the Revolutionary Guards navy, equipped with rocket launchers, heavy machine-guns and possibly Sagger anti-tank missiles.

In recent years, the Iranians have used these small boats to practice "swarming" raids on commercial vessels and U.S. warships patrolling the Persian Gulf.

The White House listed two such attacks in the list of 10 foiled al-Qaida terrorist attacks it released on Feb. 10. The attacks were identified as a "plot by al-Qaida operatives to attack ships in the [Persian] Gulf" in early 2003, and a separate plot to "attack ships in the Strait of Hormuz."

A second wave of suicide attacks would be carried out by "suicide submarines" and semi-submersible boats, before Iran deploys its Russian-built Kilo-class submarines and Chinese-built Huodong missile boats to attack U.S. warships, the source said.

The 114-foot Chinese boats are equipped with advanced radar-guided C-802s, a sea-skimming cruise-missile with a 60-mile range against which many U.S. naval analysts believe there is no effective defense.

When Iran first tested the sea-launched C-802s a decade ago, Vice Admiral Scott Redd, then commander of U.S. naval forces in the Gulf, called them "a new dimension ... of the Iranian threat to shipping."

Admiral Redd was appointed to head the National Counterterrorism Center last year.

Iran's naval strategists believe the U.S. will attempt to land ground forces to the east of Bandar Abbas. Their plans call for extensive use of ground-launched tactical missiles, coastal artillery, as swell as strategic missiles aimed at Saudi Arabia and Israel tipped with chemical, biological and possibly nuclear warheads.

The Iranians also plan to lay huge minefields across the Persian Gulf inside the Strait of Hormuz, effectively trapping ships that manage to cross the Strait before they can enter the Gulf, where they can be destroyed by coastal artillery and land-based "Silkworm" missile batteries.

Today, Iran has sophisticated EM-53 bottom-tethered mines, which it purchased from China in the 1990s. The EM-53 presents a serious threat to major U.S. surface vessels, since its rocket-propelled charge is capable of hitting the hull of its target at speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour. Some analysts believe it can knock out a U.S. aircraft carrier.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff has been warning about Iran's growing naval buildup in the Persian Gulf for over a decade, and in a draft presidential finding submitted to President Clinton in late February 1995, concluded that Iran already had the capability to close the Strait of Hormuz.

"I think it would be problematic for any navy to face a combination of mines, small boats, anti-ship cruise missiles, torpedoes, coastal artillery, and Silkworms," said retired Navy Commander Joseph Tenaglia, CEO of Tactical Defense Concepts, a maritime security company. "This is a credible threat."

In Tenaglia's view, "the major problem will be the mines. Naval minefields are hard to locate and to sweep," and the United States has few minesweepers. "It's going to be like running the gauntlet getting through there," he said.

When Iran last mined the Gulf, in 1987-1988, several U.S. ships and reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers were hit, even though the mines they used were similar to those used in the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915, Tenaglia said.

The biggest challenge facing Iran today would be to actually lay the mines without getting caught. "If they are successful in getting mines into the water, it's going to take us months to get them out," Tenaglia said.
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