In a rare move, Iran has declared a state of war on its northwestern border, debkafile's military and Iranian sources report. Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps men and equipment units are being massed in the Caspian Sea region against what Tehran claims are US and Israeli forces concentrated on army and air bases in Azerbaijan ready to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.
The announcement came on Tuesday, June 22 from Brig.-Gen Mehdi Moini of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), commander of the forces tasked with "repelling" this American-Israeli offensive. He said: "The mobilization is due to the presence of American and Israeli forces on the western border," adding, "Reinforcements are being dispatched to
West Azerbaijan Province because some western countries are fueling ethnic conflicts to destabilize the situation in the region."

In the past, Iranian officials have spoken of US and Israel attacks in general terms. debkafile's Iranian sources note that this is the first time that a specific location was mentioned and large reinforcements dispatched to give the threat substance.

Other Iranian sources report that in the last few days, Israel has secretly transferred a large number of bomber jets to bases in Azerbaijan, via Georgia, and that American special forces are also concentrated in Azerbaijan in preparation for a strike.

No comment has come from Azerbaijan about any of these reports. Iranian Azerbaijan, the destination of the Revolutionary Guards forces reinforcements, borders on Turkey, Iraq and Armenia. Witnesses say long IRGC convoys of tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft units and infantry are seen heading up the main highways to Azerbaijan and then further north to the Caspian Sea.

On Tuesday, June 22, Dr. Uzi Arad, head of Israel's National Security Council and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest adviser, said "The latest round of UN Security Council sanctions on Iran is inadequate for thwarting its nuclear progress. A preemptive military strike might eventually be necessary."

debkafile's intelligence and Iranian sources point to three other developments as setting off Iran's war alert:
1. A certain (limited) reinforcement of American and Israeli forces has taken place in
Azerbaijan. Neither Washington nor Jerusalem has ever acknowledged a military presence in this country that borders on Iran, but Western intelligence sources say that both keep a wary eye on the goings-on inside Iran from electronic surveillance bases in that country.
Iran feels moved to respond to certain US steps: The arrival of the USS Harry S. Truman Strike Group in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea and its war games with France and Israel, which included live-fire bombing practices against targets in Iran.
3. The execution of Abdolmalek Rigi, head of the Sunni Baluchi rebel organization (including the Iranian Baluchis), on June 20 was intended as a deterrent for
Iran's other minorities. Instead, they are more restive than ever. Several Azeri breakaway movements operate in Iranian Azerbaijan in combination with their brethren across the border. Tehran decided a substantial buildup in the province would serve as a timely measure against possible upheavals.

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Israel launches spy satellite
The Ofek 9 will join other Israeli spy satellites, such as this one launched in 2007 [EPA]

Israel has launched its latest military spy satellite, reportedly increasing its capacity to intelligence-gather on enemies such as Iran.

The Ofek 9 was blasted into orbit by an Israeli-made rocket on Tuesday, from the Palmachim air base south of Tel Aviv, joining three other Israeli spy satellites in space.

The defence ministry said the satellite had achieved its proper orbit, describing it as "a surveillance satellite with advanced technological capabilities".

Officials said it has a high-resolution camera and would join its other satellites to give Israel considerable coverage of sensitive areas, adding the camera could pick out missiles and launchers on the ground.

Along with the West, Israel believes Iran's uranium enrichment activities are aimed at producing nuclear weapons, an allegation Tehran denies.

Israel is also thought to be targeting Syria with its satellites. In 2007, alleged Israeli warplanes struck a site in Syria thought to be a nuclear facility under construction, although Israel has not commented on the incident.

Besides its spy satellites, Israel also has a number of communications satellites in orbit.

Israel is widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power.

An attempt to launch an Ofek-6 in 2004 failed with the satellite crashing into the Mediterranean Sea after a technical malfunction with the launcher.