With Tehran continuing to move ahead with its nuclear plans, rumors persist the White House is planning a military strike on Iran in April.

Lt. Cmdr. Alan D’Jock ducks into his shoot stance as an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 launches from catapult aboard aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman April 2, 2007. (U.S. Navy photo)

“Preparations to strike Iran’s strategic facilities continue,” Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy for Geopolitical Problems, a Russian think tank, told Moscow-based news service Interfax. “Three major groups of U.S. forces are still in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Altogether, they have up to 450 cruise missiles on alert.”

“Military operations against Tehran will begin with the launch of at least two unexpected strikes using Tomahawk cruise missiles and air power in order to disable Iran’s air-defense capabilities.”

“According to our data, up to 150 aircraft are to be involved in each strike on Iran. Land-based air-defense systems will be disabled in the first place, then mobile short-range systems, which Tehran has (including some 30 new systems),” he said.

Ivashov also did not rule out the possibility of nuclear weapons being used against Iran.

Leonid Ivashov

“Combat nuclear weapons may be used for bombing. This will result in radioactive contamination of the Iranian territory, which could possibly spread to neighboring countries,” he said.

A press conference Ivashov held in Moscow March 30 led to speculation the U.S. would strike Iran on April 4 in a military attack code-named “Operation Bite.”

In his most recent warning, Ivashov stressed the release of the 15 British sailors and marines captured by Iran robbed the U.S. of the pretext planned for a military strike last week. Still, Ivashov warned the U.S. had not given up plans to launch a missile and air strike on Iran before the end of April.

Ivashov gained international notice at the Axis for Peace conference in 2005 for his claim that “international terrorism does not exist and that the 9-11 attack was a set-up orchestrated by the U.S. government.

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency continues to support the charges Ivashov continues to make. On Friday, RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed Russian security source as saying, “Russian intelligence has information that the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in the Persian Gulf have nearly completed preparations for a missile strike against Iranian territory.”

The U.S. Navy has announced the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz left San Diego April 2 and is headed to the Persian Gulf. The Nimitz is expected to relieve the USS Eisenhower currently on station in the Gulf. The Nimitz will join the USS Stennis in a continued two-carrier battle group presence in the Gulf.

The White House continues to deny categorically there are any imminent plans to launch a military attack on Iran.

Iran’s President Ahmadinejad is expected to make a major “good news” announcement today at ceremonies marking the country’s national day of nuclear technology.

This is the second time Ahmadinejad has raised expectations of such an announcement.

In February, Ahmadinejad also led the world press to expect a similar “good news” announcement at his Feb. 11 news conference scheduled to celebrate the 28th anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution. Despite raised expectations, no such announcement was made.

Today’s ceremonies are scheduled at Natanz, the site of Iran’s deeply buried facility where Iran is currently enriching uranium, giving rise to speculation Iran will announce advancement toward its goal of installing 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Reports are also circulating the U.S. participated in a prisoner exchange that was part of a “quid pro quo” negotiated to induce Iran to release the 15 captive British marines and sailors.

Jalal Sharafi, the Iranian diplomat who was freed two months after being abducted in Iraq, has accused the CIA of torturing him as part of his interrogation.

According to Associated Press reports, the U.S. has denied playing any role in Sharafi’s detention and the CIA has denied Sharafi’s torture charges.

Ivashov was chief of staff of the Russian armed forces when the 9-11 attack took place.

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