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Iran military alert for U.S. attack


Published 7/1/01

Iran's military is on alert for a punitive U.S. military attack following the indictment of terrorists in Saudi Arabia with links to Tehran.

U.S. defense and intelligence officials said Iranian military leaders warned naval units to watch for some type of U.S. attack. A U.S. official said there are signs that "some in the Iranian regime are bracing for an attack." "They were warning their forces to be on the alert," said one U.S. official familiar with reports of the warnings. The warnings also included directions to Iranian naval forces to be careful not to be lured into a possible provocation by the U.S. military through an encounter with U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf. Tehran apparently believes the U.S. military might trigger an attack by provoking the Iranians into taking some kind of military action. The indications that Iran was preparing for conflict followed the federal indictment June 22 of 13 Saudi nationals and a Lebanese man for bombing a U.S. military residence in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 1996. The blast killed 19 American service members.

Officials also said the Iranians may have warned their naval units after U.S. military forces were placed on heightened alert because of fears of terrorist attacks. Last week the forces of fugitive Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden were reported to be planning an attack on U.S. or Israeli interests. Attorney General John Ashcroft said in announcing the indictment that the Dhahran bombing was linked to the Iranian government. Mr. Ashcroft said: "Elements of the Iranian government inspired, supported and supervised members of Saudi Hezbollah." The attorney general also said that "the defendants reported their surveillance activities to Iranian government officials and were supported and directed in those activities by Iranian officials." U.S. intelligence officials have identified Iranian government officials involved in the bombing preparations. However, the indictment made no mention of Iran or Iranian officials. "The Iranians should have seen from the indictment that we are not planning to attack," said a defense official. The U.S. military has conducted bombing strikes in response to terrorist activities on at least three occasions. Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched against suspected terrorist sites in Afghanistan and Sudan in August 1998. The strike followed the terrorist bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa by Muslim fundamentalists associated with bin Laden. In 1993, Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad were hit after the Iraqi government was linked to a terrorist plot to assassinate then-President George Bush. The U.S. military also carried out bombing raids against Libya in 1986 after intelligence reports linked Libyan agents to the terrorist bombing of a discotheque in Berlin used by American military personnel.

Iran is designated as a state sponsor of international terrorism. The State Department's annual report on terrorism, made public in April, said that despite political gains for "moderates" in Iran's political system, "hard-line conservatives have blocked most reform efforts."

"Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2000," the report said. "Its Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) continued to be involved in the planning and the execution of terrorist acts and continued to support a variety of groups that use terrorism to pursue their goals."

-- Martin Thompson (, July 01, 2001

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