Dr. Czulda is an assistant professor at the University of Lodz, Poland. He is an alumnus of the Young Leaders' Dialogue of the U.S. Department of State (2010-11) and the author of Iran 1925–2014: Between Reza Shah and Hassan Rouhani.
In many countries, especially liberal democratic ones, military or defense doctrine is a public document made available to researchers. In the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, due to understandable concerns about potential American and Israeli aggression, comprehensive plans for using military forces, in both defensive and offensive operations, are classified. A presentation and analysis of Iran's military doctrine in a concise document is not available. One must reconstruct the whole from many small elements.
Before analyzing Iran's current military doctrine, however, it is important to emphasize that a major break occurred after the Islamic Revolution and overthrow of the shah in 1979. The new political and military decision makers changed their approach towards the role and meaning of the armed forces and the entire security policy of the state. They also changed Iran's grand military doctrine, the "fundamental principles by which the military forces or elements thereof guide their actions in support of national objectives."1
The changes and present assumptions of the doctrine result from four principal factors. The first is an analysis of the flaws in the Iranian security system during the time of the shah. Although the pre-1979 armed forces were powerful in terms of quantity, their quality was doubtful. They were deeply dependent on external assistance, mainly from the United States.2 In many cases, the Iranians were denied access to major technical expertise and were unable to operate advanced military systems independently. The beefed-up army was equipped with advanced Western technology, but turned out to be incapable of defending the regime. It looked on passively at the growing chaos as Ayatollah Khomeini seized power. The armed forces had not been trained to pacify civil unrest. The pre-1979 military command did not analyze the influence of such actions on soldiers' morale; this was later recognized as a major mistake.3 The current approach, presented below, is based on technological and logistical self-sufficiency and on the redundancy of organizational structures that increase the ayatollah's security against both external and internal threats.
The second factor forcing deep doctrinal changes has an objective character: international sanctions keep Iran from modernizing its military forces by the acquisition of both adequate and technologically advanced military systems from foreign suppliers. The freedom to import almost every type of weapon ended with the fall of the shah, when Iran stopped being an ally of the West (mainly the United States).4 Today, almost every purchase is impeded, and in the case of strategic systems such as air defense (for example, the S-300), there is vocal opposition from Israel and the United States.
The third factor, connected to the second, was the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.5 Whereas, in the battles with Iraq, significant human resources — mainly officers and qualified staff, including pilots6 — had been lost, the majority of Iran's tanks and armored vehicles were destroyed. Due to the economic sanctions, it was virtually impossible to replace lost equipment, especially in the case of significant weapons: helicopters, fighter and bomber aircraft, and armored vehicles. Simultaneously, the usefulness of particular hardware, such as heavy armor, was questioned. Therefore, there was a need for a doctrine that would not only permit the elimination of structural and decision-making flaws, but also make it possible to effectively use very limited arms and relatively small forces, whose combat value and operational readiness were diminishing.
The fourth factor is a result of a detailed and comprehensive analysis of recent wars and asymmetric conflicts. It led to the decentralization of command and control, as the decision-making process was moved to lower levels of command. Iran's political and military experts analyzed the operations of the United States in Iraq (including its counterinsurgency phase after 2003), the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, the Israeli war against Hezbollah in Lebanon (2006) and two recent invasions of the Gaza Strip (2009 and 2014), as well as conflicts in the Balkans (1990s) and Chechen wars (1994-96, 1999-2009). A result has been a deeper focus on asymmetric methods, which should allow Iranians to conduct effective operations against invading forces.
THE THREAT PERCEPTION
Iran is perceived by some analysts and states, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, as a serious threat to the region. However, it must be kept in mind that Iranian politicians and military decision makers are concerned about both external aggression and separatist movements (from, for example, Azeris, Kurds and Balochis), which can be easily fueled by outsiders.7As far as defense is concerned, Iran's geographical location is disadvantageous; it is bordered by unstable Afghanistan and Pakistan, with borders of 935 and 972 kilometres, respectively. Iranian insecurity is intensified by a sense of alienation, being mainly (about 50 percent) Persians, who have a hostile attitude towards Arabs (and vice versa). Religious factors also play a role. The region is dominated by Sunni Muslims, while Iranians are mainly Shia, perceived by the Sunnis as religious renegades. What is more, Iran has an understandable sense of being surrounded by U.S. allies — Turkey, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Many neighboring states, mainly Saudi Arabia but also some other GCC member states, spend much more on defense than Iran, which cannot compete with them financially.8
Iran's western border is with Turkey, a member of the hostile (from the Iranian point of view) NATO. In the northwest is the unstable Kurdish region. Then there is Iran's western neighbor, Iraq, ruled until 2003 by the unpredictable Saddam Hussein, who attacked Iran in 1980; the country continues to generate sectarian violence and instability. A western province, Khuzestan, is Iran's granary and home to the giant Yadavaran oil field. To the south lie the Persian Gulf and the U.S. allies of the GCC. To the northeast are the highly unstable Caucasus (Armenia, pro-Western and pro-Israeli Azerbaijan, pro-Western Georgia) and the Caspian Sea, riven by competing territorial claims. To the east lie unstable Afghanistan and Pakistan, a source of many problems, not only illegal immigrants but also drug dealers. It is worth noting that Iran is on the front line in the war against narcotics and that Iranian antidrug forces are reputed to be some of the best in the world. According to Iranian data, their work accounts for 80 percent of the opium and 25 percent of the heroin intercepted worldwide.9
An important flashpoint for Iran is its unsolved disputes with the UAE over three small but strategically located islands (Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunb), seized by Iran in 1971. Although the risk of a war seems low, that of accidental and limited military skirmishes is still quite high. Iran is also afraid of the destabilization of Afghanistan. In 1998, Tehran, after the Mazar-e-Sharif crisis, accused the Taliban of genocide and in response organized military exercises along the border.10Currently one of the major internal issues for Iran is illegal migration; it is estimated that Iran hosts up to three million Afghans, and the number has been rising. In the same area (the Sistan and Beluchistan provinces), Iran has been struggling with radical Sunni insurgents responsible for the deaths of countless Iranian soldiers, policemen and civilians. Iran's northern region is much more stable, but the pro-Western Azerbaijan remains problematic since it claims a part of Iranian territory. What is more, Azerbaijan is against Iran's deploying large vessels in the Caspian Sea, where the political and military situation is tense.11
MAIN DEFENSE ASSUMPTIONS
After the end of the Iraq-Iran War in 1988, which signaled the failure of the concept of exporting the Islamic Revolution, Iran abandoned its offensive ambitions and adopted a doctrine of deterrence, emphasizing its adherence to defense, though it did not abandon its self-perception as a power and a natural leader in the region.12It declared that defense would be uncompromising, determined and oriented toward the destruction of every enemy (in practice, mainly U.S. forces).13"If you invade Iran […] we will chase, punish and target and destroy you beyond the country's borderlines," warned Brigadier General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) (1997-2007) and the supreme leader's military adviser.14 The IRGC itself added that Iran's military system has become a "reliable and effective deterrent" able to face "arrogant powers" with a "serious and devastating response."15The supreme leader's opinion is, unsurprisingly, the same: "We neither welcome, nor begin war, but in case of war, the U.S. will leave disgraced."16 Obviously, this seems to be a politically driven exaggeration, but Iran could make invasion unprofitable, even if it were not able to defeat an aggressor in an open fight. The scale of armed resistance against American troops or any other occupier might be compared to the Iraqis' resistance after 2003, but on a larger scale. To accomplish this goal, Iran spends approximately 2 percent of its GDP on defense.17
Although "soft-defense" — i.e., against cyber threats — is being increasingly emphasized in Iranian defense planning (confirmed in 2015, when the Cyber Defense Centre was established18), conventional operations remain the base of Iran's defense activities. This is an acknowledgment of the fact that contemporary "threats are constantly in flux" and therefore require flexibility and a reactive approach.19Doctrinal assumptions were adopted in 2005, with the concept of the so-called "mosaic defense."20It is based on the idea of irregular, passive, hit-and-run tactics oriented towards attrition. In the case of invasion, the Iranians would not offer mass resistance at the borders but lure the aggressors deeper inside the country, into urban areas and ambushes. It is likely that these operations would be carried out by independent or semi-independent tactical formations, engaging the enemy in surprise attacks, including use of RPGs, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), artillery, mortars, unguided rockets and snipers. Defenders would try to take advantage of Iran's geography.
A natural consequence of adopting this concept was a change in command; 31 regional commands were created, one for Tehran and one for each of the 30 provinces.21 Another change was a decentralization of command structure to provide regional commanders with greater operational freedom and flexibility of action, and more support from the local population. This would make it difficult for the aggressor to destroy a command-and-control structure. Even if the general staff and the highest decision-making authorities were neutralized and strategic communications paralyzed, the provinces would still be able to fight independently. Iranians reached this conclusion after the Balkan Wars and, above all, by analyzing the wars in Afghanistan and, later, in Iraq.22 To better prepare themselves for this kind of asymmetric operation, land forces had been changing their structure from division-centric to brigade-centric, following the path set by the United States and now adopted by many others, including NATO members and Russia.
In order to meet current threats, the Iranian army has started redeployment from the Iraqi border, where the troops' concentration had been the highest. As a result, military presence on all borders has been strengthened, which means that the armed forces can react faster. Conventional forces (the Artesh) of all military branches (land, air, navy) would probably be directed to delay the movements of an invading force, while creating the time necessary for the preparation of the defense inside the country. The main burden of the battle would then be carried by Revolutionary Guards (the Sepah or IRGC) and those specialized in operating behind enemy lines: the paramilitary irregulars, the Basij. Due to the invader's air dominance, there would probably be few open skirmishes — a lesson from the 1991 Gulf War, when the Iraqi military engaged the U.S.-British forces openly and paid for it dearly. The aim of the defense would be to attack rear units and logistical convoys, pulling the enemy's spearhead into the cities, where the aggressor would not be able to use mobility or air supremacy. Iranians could confirm the correctness of this plan after the Israeli war in southern Lebanon in 2006, which Hezbollah won de facto by using the passive tactic: avoiding open combat, letting the enemy make his move, fatiguing him and attacking selectively.23
During the war against Iraq in the 1980s, the concept of mechanized/armored warfare had already been rejected in favor of using mainly human resources. As was stated in the magazine Die Zeit by one of the Iranian commanders, "The enemy uses tanks to fight, we use people. Twelve months of warfare proved that tanks are not effective weapons."24 Two wars in the Persian Gulf (1991 and 2003) would confirm Tehran's opinion that even numerous armored divisions will not necessarily provide victory over the Americans. Despite relatively large armored forces, Saddam Hussein's army was easily defeated. The same applies to recent conflicts in the Gaza Strip, where — according to Brigadier General Ahmed Reza Pourdastan (Artesh's land forces commander) — the human factor was more important than technology.25
Iranians know that they cannot equal American fire precision, interoperability and force maneuverability, and they realize they are unable to provide their own units with adequate air support (this is also a result of objective factors — expansive territory and mountainous terrain that hampers radar coverage). The weakness of the armored component is also the result of the fact that it had to be reconstructed almost from scratch after the war against Iraq, and this was not fully possible due to the sanctions. Therefore, Iranians "are actively seeking to improve their ability to use anti-tank weapons in dispersed ambush tactics, as a substitute for direct armored battles."26
The naval dimension plays an important role, as it would be the first line of defense. No wonder that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called it a "strategic force" in November 2010.27 Apart from its military function, it has in recent years also begun to play a vital propaganda role (in naval diplomacy). Iran initiated long-range deployments of warships and logistical vessels to the Gulf of Aden and made port calls in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, China and India. As far as the internal rhetoric is concerned, this could be taken as a sign of Iran's growing power and importance in the world, proof that it is breaking out of its international isolation.28 For Iran's few allies, this could be proof that Iran is still a credible partner. Entering the Suez Canal had a special political and psychological value, which caused irritation in Israel.29 The message sent by Tehran is clear — we are a naval power, able to operate at the borders of our archenemy, and there is nothing the "Zionist regime" can do about it. It is also proof that Iran achieved "progress and overcame obstacles," as mentioned by the supreme leader during his meeting with navy commanders in 2012.30
The navy's role not only as a military deterrent force but also as a "transmitter" of certain political messages was confirmed in May 2013, when Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said that the Iranian fleet (i.e. that of the Artesh) was ready to expand its presence in the Atlantic, Indian and Antarctic Oceans if the supreme leader gave the order: "We have the capability to hoist Iran's flag in different regions from the North Pole to the South Pole and we are preparing plans for a presence near the South Pole." Iran's Press TV quoted the admiral, underlining a peaceful purpose behind these moves: "However, we will never enter the maritime borders of others, and we will not allow anybody to enter even a centimetre into our territorial waters."31 In September 2012, Sayyari, who believes that "no threat can harm" his country,32 said Iran would counter the U.S. presence in its waters by sending a naval fleet to the international waters off the U.S. coast in "the next few years."33 This is a major change; the Artesh was previously not very politicized and had mostly been given military tasks. The growing importance of the Artesh, ignored and disregarded for many years after the Revolution (previously, the IRGC was noticeably privileged), is a new trend in Iran, and one worthy of notice. However, the balance of power may shift in the near future in favor of the IRGC once again. In early November 2013, the Fars News Agency reported that the IRGC is planning to establish "a Basij Navy," which would be suited to both defensive (access denial) and offensive operations.34
From a military perspective, the fleet must secure two areas: (1) the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and (2) the Caspian Sea, which is vital for all countries with access to it due to its underwater energy resources. Iran, controlling 13 percent of the sea's coastline, keeps enlarging its fleet, abandoning the Cold War doctrine of avoiding military presence on the Caspian, considered then to be in the Soviet Union's sphere of influence. Currently, Iran is sustaining two independent fleet commands there, around 90 small surface-combat units, a Salman minelayer (former U.S. Bluebird class), fast boats, anti-ship missiles and unguided rockets; and it has initiated a plan to deploy midget-submarines.35 The plans to launch subsequent units have been confirmed, along with the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Additional proof of the importance of the basin is that the Damavand — a destroyer, according to the Iranians, but not larger than a corvette; sometimes considered a frigate — joined the service in March 2015. The first unit, Jamaran, has been operating in the Persian Gulf since February 2010.
From the point of view of defensive war, the Persian Gulf is more important, and the Iranians have drawn lessons from history, especially from their naval skirmishes with the United States during the Iraq-Iran War.36 In response to Iran's mining of the Persian Gulf, as well as its damaging of the USS Samuel B. Roberts in 1988, the United States launched Operation Praying Mantis. The Iranian surface fleet was far too weak to be able to confront the American forces in a direct engagement. Not only were their own oil platforms not defended (two were destroyed by the Americans), neither were their own vessels. An attempt to face the U.S. Navy openly resulted in the sinking of five ships (including the frigate Sahand) and damage to another, the Sabalan. From this experience, the Iranians learned, in a naval campaign, that asymmetrical tactics are the only feasible option. Such thinking was confirmed by the above-mentioned damage inflicted on the USS Samuel B. Roberts by a mine.
The planners in Tehran likely realize that an open engagement with the U.S. Navy would be suicide and casualties would be much higher than those of Operation Praying Mantis. Moreover, the development of precision ammunition over the last 10-20 years gives the Americans and their allies an even greater tactical advantage. No wonder that Iran now develops the instruments of irregular naval warfare. The hardware being introduced into service illustrates this asymmetric approach, especially for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) — while the navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRIN) remains mainly a blue-water fleet. Now possessing three Kilo-class submarines and several outdated surface vessels,37 Iran is currently developing mainly midget submarines,38 fast boats with unguided missiles, indigenously developed UAVs, a broad range of anti-ship missiles and mining capabilities.
It is highly likely that Iran would also use hit-and-run tactics in its naval operations. These would be based on deploying small, high-speed and hard-to-detect boats equipped with missiles, mines (mainly from civilian boats) and torpedoes; flying boats (like the missile-equipped Bavar-2); potentially, suicide boats (also civilian); anti-ship missiles (ship-based and from coastal batteries); and even oil spills against its enemy. It may not be ruled out that Iran would extensively use combat UAVs armed with either guided or unguided bombs, or anti-ship missiles (a wide range has been revealed, including the Karrar, Shahed-129, Fotros). Using UAVs, such as Raad or Hazem, in "kamikaze" tactics might also be considered. However, that action would be a last resort due to its impracticality. The basic means of engagement would probably be anti-ship missiles.
Iran's geography provides significant advantages in asymmetric operations. The size of the Persian Gulf (a mere 21 nautical miles wide at its narrowest) offers a small operational space that would cause problems for the U.S. Navy. Aircraft carriers would have to operate from the Gulf of Oman. More important, the northern parts of the Persian Gulf are strewn with small rock islands, impediments to large units, and also making it possible for small ones — including midget submarines — to hide. This would enable the Iranians to neutralize their technological weakness. Engaging small, fast units is difficult for large surface vessels like frigates and destroyers, which may be seriously damaged, as the USS Cole incident demonstrates.39
As a last resort, Iran could return to the tactics of the war against Iraq, when it tried to paralyze the movement of tankers in the Persian Gulf.40 Mine warfare and massive bombardment with anti-ship missiles, which Iran has been improving for years (mainly based on Chinese technology), would deal a great blow to freedom of movement near the Strait of Hormuz, through which approximately 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil exports pass.41 However, this would be a double-edged sword: the strait is the aorta through which the majority of Iran's goods and petroleum are exported.42 Ahmed S. Hashim is correct in saying that Iran "is unlikely to mine the Strait of Hormuz unless a conflict actually breaks out, as it depends on the Strait to export its own oil."43
Of course, Iran cannot destroy the American forces, but in asymmetric warfare that is not the objective. One may refer to the opinion of General Vo Nguyen Giap, commander of the Vietnam People's Army. The main intention of his troops was not to "drive out a half-million American troops," but to "break the will of the American government to continue the war."44 The United States, like every democratic country, is very sensitive to its own losses; Iran knows this perfectly well. With a bit of luck, Iran could be very successful; damaging or even sinking an American ship at the narrow entrance to the Strait of Hormuz would be a major blow to the United States. Despite their advanced systems, and their ability to engage any airborne threat, U.S. naval vessels would have a genuine problem defending against a swarm of small, fast craft armed with a large number of missiles.
Iran's tolerance for losses is also potentially much higher than that of the West. The mass use of soldiers is possible thanks to the high level of fanaticism inspired by Shiism. Its fundamental tenet is a conviction that pain, suffering and sacrificing one's life to God is the highest value. Being a shaheed (a martyr) and dying during combat is a great honor according to the official narrative.45 Religious Iran's political and social identity, and therefore its military doctrine, is based on a reformed version of Shia Islam. Its traditional form is devoted to the idea of silent suffering and the passive endurance of pain.46 After 1979, Iran adopted the concept based on a revolutionary and expansionist Shia Islam. This offensive doctrine was obligatory until Khomeini's death in 1989. Nowadays, a concentration on defense and deterrence is emphasized again. In April 1998, President Mohammad Khatami stated, "Our army is strong and sovereign; our armed forces are strong and powerful, but neither our revolution nor our nation or armed forces are expansionist."47 In April 1997, General Mohsen Rezaei, then commander of the Revolutionary Guard, stated similarly, "Iran will never start any war," but added immediately, "If the Americans one day decide to attack us, then they would have committed suicide."48 This kind of rhetoric — a declared fondness for defense and peace with a simultaneous readiness to take decisive action against attack and seek martyrdom — may be found in almost all the security/defense-related statements of Iranian decision makers and military officials.
DOMESTIC DEFENSE POTENTIAL
It is difficult to assess the degree of society's trust in the armed forces. Until 1979, the army had been perceived as a tool of the dictatorial shah. Soldiers were associated more with the pacification of society than the defense of the motherland. Corruption and high salaries for officers contributed to the anti-military attitudes. High expenditures on arms were unpopular. During the Islamic Revolution, when the army passively watched the growing chaos, the antipathy increased. The heavy losses to the Iraqis (1980-88) did not improve the army's standing in society. However, a considerable number of secular and liberal Iranians, despite their criticism of the political establishment and the Islamic Republic itself, would likely stand up to fight an aggressor — not for ideology but for patriotic reasons. Breaking the will of the Iranian people would be a much bigger problem for the aggressor than crossing the border. For historical reasons, they do not trust the avowed intentions of Western countries, and many would probably reject invitations to cooperate with the occupiers.49
Iran's defense doctrine results to a great extent from the economic sanctions that have prevented the import of arms.50 Iran was forced to develop the indigenous production of weaponry: approximately 50 types of small arms and artillery ammunition, including tank ammo and missiles.51 Iran also produces the majority of its light weapons, including handguns, rifles, anti-tank weapons and mortars. Tanks such as the T-54/55, Type 59 and M47 are indigenously modernized. Local industry, mainly thanks to reverse engineering, is capable of building, for instance, Towsan light tanks (based on the British FV101 Scorpion) or Boragh armored personnel carriers (based on the Chinese Type 86). Iranian engineers are believed to have designed Zulfiqar main-battle tanks and Saeghe 2 jet aircraft (based on the F-5F Tiger II). Some engines, missiles, avionics and structural elements are copied in Iran. Some helicopters are also built domestically (based on U.S. technologies), as are surface ships and midget submarines. Missiles have also been developed.
Despite its undeniable potential, the domestic arms industry is not sufficiently developed to meet all of the Iranian armed forces' modernization needs. This also applies to less advanced arms. Problems with the development of the Zulfiqar tank, which still does not seem to be operational in high numbers (or is not in service at all, which is highly possible due to the lack of evidence), as well as the lack of fully indigenous (yet also modern) armored vehicles are cases in point. The same can be said, and to a higher degree, about technologically advanced systems, which cannot be indigenously provided at all. The majority of equipment purchased prior to 1979 by the shah is now obsolete. Although this equipment, such as the F-14 or F-4 aircraft, was highly advanced, it now is close to exceeding its service life, and replacement or the acquisition of spare parts is almost impossible. Friendly countries, such as North Korea, Russia, Belarus or China, do not offer to supply them. Therefore, many vehicles have been withdrawn from service, disassembled or cannibalized. It is also significant that upon the collapse of the shah in 1979, many officers and specialists fled the country, forcing new decision makers to build maintenance and logistical potential almost from scratch.
Apart from the lack of technologically less advanced major systems, such as tanks, armored vehicles, surface vessels and jet aircraft, Iran's most urgent problems are caused by a shortage of modern command, command and communication (C3) and information, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities. There is also a visible lack of an integrated defense network. In other words, Iran is unable to carry out joint operations at a high tempo, on a large scale, for a long period of time and react quickly to strategic and tactical changes in the battle zone. Apart from this, a significant problem for Iran's defense is the lack of modern air-defense systems, including air-to-air beyond-visual-range capabilities.
Due to the fact that Iran's regular armed forces (the Artesh) are similar to those of other countries in structure, tasks and equipment,52 a detailed analysis is unnecessary. The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (the IRGC, the Pasdaran or the Sepah) is much more significant, surpassing the traditional understanding of a military branch. It was called into existence as a consequence of the lack of an effective internal-security force during the first period of the Islamic Revolution. It is a unique institution. "From laser eye surgery and construction to automobile manufacturing and real estate, the IRGC has extended its influence into virtually every sector of the Iranian market," according to a RAND analysis.53 The IRGC is also a political instrument, but at the same time, it is powerful enough to at least sometimes act as a decision-maker. As an Iranian dissident, one of the IRGC's founders, has stated, "I don't know of any other organization in any country like the Revolutionary Guards. It's something like the Communist Party, the KGB, a business complex, and the mafia."54
The Sepah was established by the Ayatollah Khomeini's decree of May 5, 1979. The new religious authorities needed a strong force that could effectively protect their (then) weak government. They could not trust the army; the process of eliminating officers loyal to the shah was not finished. The conventional army was considered passive and weak; it lacked the will to even protect the monarch. In the first period, the mid-1980s, the Revolutionary Guards were religious paramilitary police, used to take care of the security of the regime and strengthen the idea of the Islamic Revolution by, for example, enforcing religious law. As IRGC Deputy Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami put it recently, the IRGC helped to transform the Iranian defense system, affected by "counterrevolutionary thoughts," into a "carrier of the Islamic Revolution's ideas."55 The example of activity from that period was the pacification of Kurdish, Turkmen and Balochi rebellions, as well as conflicts with the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK).56 Pasdarans countered a coup d'état conspiracy at the beginning of the 1980s and the terrorist group Forghan, which was accused of having contact with the CIA.57 The establishment of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (VEVAK) in 1984 decreased the importance of the IRGC in internal security.58
The outbreak of the war against Iraq in 1980 slowly transformed the IRGC from an unorganized paramilitary group of religious zealots into a patriotic-religious military formation. These units quickly began to expand and in 1986 reached 350,000 members. They were given preferential treatment59 and still receive higher salaries, better equipment and armaments than other forces. In September 1985, as a result of Khomeini's personal decision, work on the creation of the IRGC's naval and air components began. At present, the Sepah has approximately 120,000 members in active service and continually reinforces its public reputation by referring to the "holy defense" against Iraq between 1980 and 1988. However, many Iranians, particularly the liberal and well-educated as well as those who lost loved ones in the war, are critical of the Revolutionary Guards, accusing them of prolonging the war then and of corruption and the persecution of democratic opposition now.
More change occurred when uniforms modeled on those of the regular military ranks were introduced.60 Doctrine and discipline were copied from the Artesh and professional command-and-control structures were created. Over time, they took responsibility for strategic military projects, including ballistic missiles. The cause of this evolution is obvious: at the beginning of the 1980s, the whole political and military opposition against religious government was eliminated, so the task of protecting the Islamic Revolution, while still important, was no longer a priority. Second, the war against Iraq required military forces rather than a constabulary. A subsequent evolution started in 2005, when the conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president. The internal role of the Pasdaran increased, and its members were appointed to the most important positions in the country and in government.61
While the Revolutionary Guards are still tasked with protecting the religious authorities, they now also protect the whole country against external threats. The Sepah still has its own land, air and naval branches. Although it has tanks and armored vehicles, its most important land forces are lightly armed, mainly with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry. It concentrates mainly on the maintenance of the aforementioned irregular defense against external aggression. IRGC members practice constructing IEDs (Iranian experts operated in Iraq and probably also in Afghanistan, where they gained experience) and operating effectively behind enemy lines without armored or air support.62 The Pasdaran also supports other security entities such as border guards and the anti-drug police and assist with natural disasters and infrastructural projects in rural areas. IRGC units are currently operational in both Syria and in Iraq.
The Sepah's versatility is formidable, but its exact structure is not known. According to some sources, it has 20 divisions — two armored, five mechanized, 10 infantry, one of Special Forces and 15-20 independent brigades.63 It is not certain whether they are independent division-size units or various units whose total power is equal to 20 divisions. According to other sources, the majority of the Sepah's combat units have the structure of a battalion; this makes sense, considering the focus on guerrilla warfare.64 The IRGC also has an air branch, mainly equipped with ballistic missiles, including medium-range Shahab 3s. Some aircraft and helicopters belong to the Sepah, which also has a fleet of approximately 20,000 men (including 5,000 marines), 40 light patrol/assault boats and anti-ship missiles (including C-802 and HY-2 Silkworms).65 In the case of war, the Sepah's navy would also conduct irregular operations, mining the harbors and coastal zone of the Persian Gulf and attacking merchant ships, tankers, harbor installations, critical oil and gas infrastructure, military bases, et cetera.
During the presidency of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97), the Sepah remained on the periphery. Its importance grew during the presidency of the reformist Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), when the necessity of establishing an alliance with conservatives emerged. "Today, the IRGC's political muscle manifests itself in diverse ways," as RAND experts write, "from Basij intimidation of voters to the presence of an ex-IRGC officer as the Deputy Minister of the Interior, responsible for ballot validation and counting in the March 2008 Majles (parliamentary) elections."66 Because choosing a new religious leader is only a matter of time (Ali Khamenei is 76), the Sepah will play an important role in this process. This may lead to in-fighting and rivalry. One of the scenarios Western analysts consider possible includes replacing the supreme leader with an officer from the Sepah.67
A volunteer militia, the Basij (Mobilization of the Oppressed), has been under control of the IRGC since 2007. It might be compared to the SA (Sturmabteilung) of Nazi Germany, due to its ideological, voluntary and paramilitary character (the IRGC might be equivalent to the Waffen SS). On the other hand, it is similar to the Iraqi Fedayeen, Saddam Hussein's military zealots. The Basij militia was established in order to mobilize the masses under the banner of the Islamic Revolution. At present, the Basij is also an auxiliary arm of the police and other security forces, taking part in protecting and controlling public events and assisting in the case of natural disasters.68 According to official data from 1985, there were 11,000 Basij training centers and three million volunteers.69 Today there are officially 12 million members of this militia. Of course, not everyone undergoes regular training, and many members are neither mobilized nor armed during peacetime; a mobilization would take place only in the event of war. Some Basij battalions have a tribal composition.70
Fully committed members are responsible for providing "ideological support" and conducting psychological warfare to promote the idea of Islamic Revolution among different social groups, such as students, and to counter any anti-regime propaganda or liberal opposition. The Basij's members are present in every large institution, including universities and schools; among lecturers, 25 percent are affiliated with the Basij militia.71 "The Pasdaran and Basij also indoctrinate teens at summer camps."72
Though Basij members are generally lightly armored, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that heavy weapons are not necessary in order to inflict huge losses. Determination and readiness to sacrifice are sometimes enough. If it came to an invasion of Iran, the Artesh's units would probably be quickly defeated; perhaps some would not want to fight for a religious government. In the case of a coup d'état and mass demonstrations, their behavior might also be unknowable. Therefore, the religious authorities still do not fully trust the conventional forces. The biggest threat to the aggressor would be the tens of thousands of Basij, ready to die for Iran and Islam as holy martyrs. At least some of these troops would fight in plainclothes among civilians. It is difficult to predict the size of this mobilization — perhaps several hundred thousand, perhaps several million. The official plan mentions an army of 20 million loyal soldiers who "obey rules set by the founder (Khomeini), profess revolutionary values and both moral and social principles."73
According to information reaching the West, at least some Basij members serve for financial reasons and social privileges.74 A legal act from 2004 allowed Iranians who do not want to serve in the regular armed forces to serve in a Basij. Temporary service in this auxiliary force is a good solution for conscientious objectors, though Basij militia do not have a good reputation among secular liberals. They are not influenced by the indoctrination process that creates "the Basij culture." Both the Sepah and the Basij are respected by those who are poorly educated or live in the countryside.
The Sepah, due to its special character, is engaged in clandestine operations outside Iran. A special unit is the so-called Quds Force. Both the Sepah and the Quds Force are responsible for conducting clandestine operations, sometimes aimed at assisting allied groups (proxies).75 Quds officers are believed by the West to operate mainly in the Middle East and Central Asia. Their significant allies are Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. The Pasdaran provide them with training in Iran, as well as providing financial assistance, missiles, explosive materials, unmanned aerial vehicles and personal weapons (including sniper rifles). Quds agents also operate at Iranian diplomatic institutions all over the world.
The latest arena of activity for the Revolutionary Guards is war-torn Syria. It was semi-officially admitted at the end of August 2012 that there was a small group of various military specialists in Syria.76 Pasdaran experts had trained Syrians earlier in cyber defense and spying techniques for use against the political opposition. Although the authorities in Tehran deny it, the Quds Force is suspected of plotting a conspiracy against the Saudi ambassador in Washington and of preparing bombing attacks in India, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Thailand.77 The Iranian military is present with troops and equipment (sometimes including tanks and combat aircraft) in Iraq, as well. It is believed that, in 2015, Iran became involved in the direct preparation and execution of military operations conducted by Iraqi armed forces against ISIS. The top Iranian officer is General Qassem Soleimani, whose presence in Iraq was widely confirmed by the media. The Iranian FARS agency itself published pictures of him during the successful operation to recapture Tikrit. Supporting the Iraqi government accomplishes two goals. A stable, Shia-dominated and pro-Iranian Iraq will allow Iran to expand its presence across the region. At the same time, it is vital for Iran's security. Such an Iraq will not generate any major threats and will not serve as a platform for attacks by, for instance, the United States.
The role of the Sepah in the offensive dimension of the Iranian defense doctrine is not limited to covert operations by special services. An important part of the Iranian concept of irregular warfare is ballistic-missiles forces. Brigadier General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, a senior military adviser to the supreme leader, confirmed such a strategy in 2012.78 Land-based launchers can be easily hidden and transported, and missiles are difficult to neutralize. For a relatively low cost they can strike critical targets: towns, industrial and energy infrastructure, merchant ships, tankers, pipelines and warships. For Iran, it is virtually the only means available during a defensive war to move, at least partially, military operations outside its own territory. Ballistic missiles give Iranians the opportunity to strike U.S. military facilities in the region and vital targets in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and even Israel. The combat fleet available to the Iranian air force does not allow military decision-makers to even consider a conventional retaliatory action in the event of attack. Therefore, missile projects are perceived by the Iranians to be the best possible asset, and are placed under the direct control of the Revolutionary Guards. Projects are highly clandestine and subject to deep counterintelligence protection. Information available in the media is a mixture of propaganda and disinformation.79 States such as Israel and Saudi Arabia must always take this threat into consideration if they plan to attack Iran.
Iran's greatest military concerns undoubtedly lie with the potential aggression of Israel and the United States.80 Is an effective defense against such a threat even possible? As analyzed above, Iran struggles with technical modernization, which, despite a plan to allocate almost $40 billion for the upgrade, will not be accomplished anytime soon. However, despite this, Iranian armed forces are strong enough to deter or even defeat such theoretical aggressors as Iraq, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan or Afghanistan in a conventional and defensive war. Even a defense mounted against Turkey, Pakistan or the United States need not end in quick capitulation; Iran is able to make any invader pay a very high price.
An important element of Iran's defense is an ability, albeit of unknown scale, to shift some military actions from its own territory into the surrounding environment. This was confirmed indirectly in 2012 by Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, who said that, although "the probability of an all-out military war, both by the U.S. and the Zionist regime against Iran in the near future is very remote," Iranian armed forces "must always be ready, get stronger and increase their readiness to attack and defend…and must always expect the unexpected."81 Brigadier General Hossein Salami (the deputy commander of the IRGC) stated the view more explicitly: "Our doctrines are defensive at the level of (grand) strategy, but our strategies and tactics are offensive. This means that we will not start a war, but if someone starts a war against us, we will be all offense and will attack relentlessly and will not stop."82 Consequently, any aggression would trigger Iran's proxy-war capabilities and ballistic-missile forces, and would therefore end in the further destabilization of an already unstable region. The precise scale and form of the ensuing chaos is impossible to know, perhaps making its unpredictability the most effective element in Iran's defense doctrine.
1Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2004), 165; and Bert Chapman, ed., Military Doctrine: A Reference Handbook (Praeger Security International, 2009), 1-3. Doctrine on lower levels (tactical/operational) remained influenced by the US approach.
2 For the history of Iranian armed forces, see also Ravi Shekhar and Narain Singh, Asian Strategic and Military Perspective (Lancer Publishers & Distributors, 2005), 91-106.
3 Mark Roberts, Khomeini's Incorporation of the Iranian Military (National Defense University, 1996), 20.
4 See Shahram Chubin, "Arms Procurement in Iran: Ad hoc Decision Making and Ambivalent," in Military Capacity and the Risk of War, ed. E. Arnett, (Oxford University Press, 1997), 228–229; S. Chubin, "The Military Building in the Non-Industrial States: The Case of Iran," cited in Uri Ra'anan, Robert L. Pfaltzgraff and Geoffrey Kemp, The Military Buildup in the Non-Industrial States (Westview Press, 1978), 34-55; and Bobi Pirseyedi, Arms Control and Iranian Foreign Policy: Diplomacy of Discontent (Routledge, 2013), 32-34.
5 See Stephen C. Pelletiere, The Iran-Iraq War: Chaos in a Vacuum (Praeger, 1992); Efraim Karsh, The Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 (Osprey Publishing, 2002); Jerome Donovan, The Iran-Iraq War: Antecedents and Conflict Escalation (Routledge, 2011); and W. Murray and K.M. Woods, The Iran-Iraq War: A Military and Strategic History (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
6 Efraim Karsh, The Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 (Osprey Publishing, 2002), 19.
7 Those concerns are not confirmed in public. For example, in June 2015, the Iranian intelligence minister, Seyed Mahmoud Alawi, said, "despite the fact that security problems mainly occur along countries' borders and that there is much insecurity in Iran's neighboring countries… there is full and exemplary security across the country and along our borders." "Iranian Borders Fully Secure: Intelligence Minister," Tasnim News Agency, June 13, 2015, http://www.tasnimnews.com/english/Home/Single/768494.
8 In comparison, while Saudi Arabia spent $80 billion on defense in 2014, Iran's military spending was approximately $15 billion (9 percent of total military spending in the Middle East). Trita Parsi and Tyler Cullis, "The Myth of the Iranian Military Giant," Foreign Policy, July 10, 2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/07/10/the-myth-of-the-iranian-military-gi….
9 Data provided by the Iranian Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, December 2011; See also Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan: Border Management Cooperation in Drug Control (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, January 6, 2012).
10 Taliban captured and murdered several Iranian diplomats and truck drivers. Amin Saikal, Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival (I.B. Tauris 2012), 230.
11 Paul Henze, "Turkey and the Caucasus: Relations with the New Republics," cited in Michael Radu, ed., Dangerous Neighborhood: Contemporary Issues in Turkey's Foreign Relations (Foreign Policy Research Institute, 2003), 105-106.
12 In June 2015, such a perception was confirmed by IRGC Major General Mohsen Rezaei, who said that Iran holds the "dominant military power in the region" and is among the top-ten militaries in the world. See "Iran Az Nazar-e Nezami Keshvar-e Aval-e Mantaghe Va Jose Dah Ghodrat-e Barta-e Donyast (Militarily, Iran Is Region's Leading Country and among Top Ten Military Powers In The World)," Tasnim News Agency, June 17, 2015, http://www.tasnimnews.com/Home/Single/772473. See also Uzi Rabi, "Iran's Regional Policy — The Race to Middle East Hegemony," cited in Reuven Pedatzur, ed., Iran's Ambitions for Regional Hegemony (Netanya Academic College, 2010), 5-12. The symptoms of the growing ambition, for example, are the space program and sending warships to the Suez Channel, as well as a growing political, economic and military presence in Africa and the Middle East (including Iraq and Yemen).
13 See, for example, "Commander Reiterates Defensive Nature of Iran's Military Doctrine," FARS News Agency, October 6, 2013, http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13920714000585; "Iran Air Defense Fully Prepared to Counter Threats: Cmdr.," Press TV, December 5, 2012, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/12/05/276273/iran-army-ready-to-count…; and "IRGC Commander: Enemies Not Dare Impose Any Threat against Iran," IRNA, November 4, 2012, http://www.irna.ir/en/News/80399979/Politic/IRGC_commander__Enemies_not….
14 "Iran Will Chase Invaders beyond Borders," Press TV, March 11, 2011, http://edition.presstv.ir/detail/169402.html.
15 "Crushing Response Awaits Enemies' Practical Threats against Iran: IRGC," Tasnim News Agency, April 17, 2015, http://www.tasnimnews.com/english/Home/Single/713559.
16 Khamenei.ir on Twitter, July 18, 2015.
17 "Ekhtesas-e hadde-aghal dow darsad az boudge omoomi baray-e taghviat-e bonye defaiee (Allocation of At Least Two Percent of Public Budget for Strengthening Defense Capabilities)," Tasnim News Agency, December 10, 2014, http://www.tasnimnews.com/Home/Single/584335.
18 IRGC Brigadier General Reza Jalali, the head of the Passive Defense Organization, said that the Center will deal with and respond to cyber threats. See "Sardar Jalali Dar Neshast-e Khabari: Tashkil-e Markaze Padafand-e Cybery Dar Nirouhay-e Mosallah (Jalali at Press Conference: Formation of Cyber Defense Center in the Armed Forces)," Sepah News, June 15, 2015, http://www.sepahnews.com/shownews.Aspx?ID=36e7717b-1fcd-4388-980a-20c24….
19 "Sarlashgar Jafari Dar Hamayesh-e Sarasari-e Rohanioun-e Sepah: Bedoun-e Modiriat-e Jehadi, Karhay-e Bozorg Be Saranjam Nemiresad (Without Jihad Management, Great Achievements Will Not Be Accomplished, Said General Jafari at National IRGC's Clergy Gathering)," Sepah News, June 15, 2015, http://sepahnews.com/shownews.Aspx?ID=a4145b6a-cc78-459d-a73d-6a5c4698c…. See also "Amir Pourdastan: Nirooy-e Zamini Moghtadertar Va Motehavel Mishavad (Amir Pourdastan: The Army Is Getting Stronger and Is Evolving)" MEHR News, February 28, 2011, http://goo.gl/oV75QK.
20 Alireza Nader, "How Would Iran Fight Back?" RAND Corporation, October 1, 2012, http://www.rand.org/blog/2012/10/how-would-iran-fight-back.html. An analysis of previous Iranian military doctrine is available here: Steven Ward, ''The Continuing Evolution of Iran's Military Doctrine,'' Middle East Journal 59, no. 4 (2005), 559-576.
21 Michael Connell, "Iran's Military Doctrine," cited in Robin Wright, The Iran Primer. Power, Politics, and U.S. Policy (U.S. Institute of Peace, 2010), 71-73.
22 Ibid, 71.
23 See also Anthony Cordesman et al., Lessons of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah War (Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2007).
24 Witold Sochacki, Wojna iracko-irańska (Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza, 1984), 110.
25 An Interview with Brigadier General Ahmed Reza Pourdastan, Saff, 385 (2013), 12.
26 Anthony H. Cordesman and Martin Kleiber, Iran's Military Forces and Warfighting Capabilities: The Threat in the Northern Gulf (CSIS, 2007), 67.
27 "Iran's Supreme Leader Urges Stronger Navy," Payvand, November 28, 2010, http://www.payvand.com/news/10/nov/1285.html. See also Michael Connell, "The Artesh Navy: Iran's Strategic Force," Middle East Institute, January 31, 2012, http://www.mei.edu/content/artesh-navy-irans-strategic-force; and Joshua C. Himes, "The Iranian Navy's Historic Mediterranean Deployment: Timing Is Everything," Center for Strategic & International Studies, March 21, 2011, http://csis.org/publication/iranian-navys-historic-mediterranean-deploy….
28 Christopher Harmer points out that this increased naval activity could be aimed at strengthening existing relationships with strategic partners, and that "Iran could be using its navy to function as a transportation network for high-value material and components," "Iranian Naval and Maritime Strategy" 9, no. 12, Middle East Security Report, June 2013, http://www.understandingwar.org/report/iranian-naval-and-maritime-strat….
29 "Iran Warships Sail Via Suez Canal amid Israeli Concern," BBC News, February 22, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12533803; and "Israel Silent as Iranian Ships Transit Suez Canal," New York Times, February 22, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/world/middleeast/23suez.html?_r=0.
30 "Supreme Leader Meets with Navy Commanders," The Office of the Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei, November 27, 2012, http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/?p=contentShow&id=10190.
31 "Iran Navy Plans to Expand Presence near South Pole," Press TV, September 22, 2012, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/09/22/262911/iran-plans-naval-presenc….
32 "Commander Reiterates Navy's High Capabilities to Defend Iran's Interests," FARS News Agency, June 23, 2015, http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13940402001554.
33 ''Iran Plans to Deploy Warships off U.S. Coast," RT, September 4, 2012, http://www.rt.com/news/iran-navy-usa-gulf-352.
34 "Commander: IRGC Planning to Form Shadow Navy Force," FARS News Agency, November 2, 2012, http://www.english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13920811000592.
35 "The Gulf States," Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment, July 7, 2015, http://www.sentinel.janes.com.
36 See also Harold Lee Wise, Inside the Danger Zone: The U.S. Military in the Persian Gulf, 1987-1988 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2013), 200; Thomas J. Cutler, A Sailor's History of The U.S. Navy (Naval Institute Press, 2005), 14-20; Adam Tarock, The Superpowers' Involvement in the Iran-Iraq War (Nova Science Publishers, 1998); and Joanna Dodds and Benjamin Wilson, The Iran-Iraq War: Will without Means, quoted in Barry Rubin, ed., Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle East (Routledge, 2009), 46-70.
37 Quantitative data available at ''Iran: Military Balance Files,'' The Institute for National Security Studies, http://www.inss.org.il/uploadImages/systemFiles/20130102Iran.pdf; and The International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2013 (Routledge, 2013), 377-381.
38 See also Christopher Harmer, "Iran's Submarine Force," Institute for the Study of War, June 21, 2012, http://www.understandingwar.org/reference/fact-sheet-irans-submarine-fo….
39 The USS Cole was successfully attacked in October 2000 by al-Qaeda as it was refuelled in Yemen. It proved that even a small boat with explosives can cause severe damage. See also Kirk Lippold, Front Burner: Al Qaeda's Attack on the USS Cole (PublicAffairs, 2013).
40 See also Lee Allen Zatarain, Tanker War: America's First Conflict with Iran, 1987-1988 (Casemate Publishers, 2008); A. Tarock, The Superpower's Involvement in the Iran-Iraq War, 123-125; and Martin S. Navias and Edward R. Hooton, Tanker Wars. The Assault on Merchant Shipping During the Iran-Iraq Conflict, 1980-1988 (I.B. Tauris, 1996).
41 "Hormuz Shipping Lanes Not Affected by Collision: Oman," Reuters, August 18, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/12/us-gulf-oil-collision-strait-….
42 Ami Sedghi, "Iran Oil Exports: Where Do They Go?" Guardian, February 2, 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/feb/06/iran-oil-exports-d…; and "Iran Lawmakers Prepare to Close Hormuz Strait," RT, July 3, 2012, http://www.rt.com/news/iran-bill-hormuz-strait-218.
43 Ahmed Hashim, "The Evolution of Iran's Military Doctrine," Center for Strategic & International Studies, January 9, 2013, 2.
44 Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace. Small Wars and the Rise of American Power (Basic Books, 2002), 316.
45 See also Joyce M. Davis, Martyrs: Innocence, Vengeance, and Despair in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 45-66; David Cook, Martyrdom in Islam (Cambridge University Press, 2007), 154-155; Christoph Reuter, Zamachowcy – samobójcy. Współczesność i historia, Świat Książki (2003), 49-73, 328-353 — English edition: Christoph Reuter, My Life Is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing (Princeton University Press, 2004); and "Enemy Afraid of Martyrdom-Seeking Spirit of Iranians: Culture Min," IRNA, August 21, 2012, http://www.irna.ir/fa/NewsPrint.aspx?ID=366308.
46 Christoph Reuter, Ibid., 51-54.
47 Anthony Cordesman, Iran's Military Forces in Transition: Conventional Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction (Praeger, 1999), 15.
48 Ibid., 20.
49 Iranians, including liberal ones, frequently state in conversation why they do not trust the West. As an example, they give the instrumental treatment of Iran by the United Kingdom and Russia (later the Soviet Union) in the first half of the 20th century, including the aggression of both countries towards Iran in 1941. In 1953, both British and American intelligence agencies orchestrated a coup d'état that resulted in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran, including Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. Iranians also remember that, during the Iran-Iraq War, the West (mainly the United States, France and Israel) supported the regime of Saddam Hussein. The antipathy towards the political interference of the West is so high that in 2009 the leaders of the opposition explicitly rejected the idea of external assistance. See also Hooman Majd, The Ayatollahs' Democracy: An Iranian Challenge (Norton, 2010).
50 "Iran Near Self-Sufficiency in Defense Industry: Vahidi," Press TV, September 8, 2012, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/09/08/260429/iran-close-to-military-s…; "Navy Commander: Iran Self-sufficient in Defense Equipment," IRNA, November 2, 2012, http://www3.irna.ir/en/News/80398279/Politic/Navy_commander__Iran_self-…; "Iran's Defense Strategy Based on Self-Reliance, Ties with Other States: DM," Tasnim News Agency, May 23, 2014, http://www.tasnimnews.com/english/Home/Single/379345; and "Commander: Iranian Air Force Self-Reliant in Building Hi-Tech Missiles, Equipment," FARS News Agency, February 7, 2015, http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13931118001508.
51 "The Gulf States," Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment, July 7, 2015, http://www.sentinel.janes.com.
52 See, for example, Anthony Cordesman, The Conventional Military, cited in Robin Wright, The Iran Primer, 66-69; Michael Eisenstadt, "The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran: An Assessment," Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal 5, no. 1 (2001), 1-30; and Steven Ward, Immortal: A Military History of Iran and Its Armed Forces (Georgetown University Press, 2009).
53 Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (RAND Corporation, 2009), 55.
54 Ibid., 2. More about IRGC and subordinate units in Steven O'Hern, Iran's Revolutionary Guard: The Threat That Grows While America Sleeps (Potomac Books, 2012).
55 "Sardar Salami Dar Goftogouy-e Zendeh-e Televisioni: Javab-e Darkhast-e Bazdid Az Marakez-e Nezami-e Iran ra ba Khahim Dad/ Mafrouzat-e ma baray-e Jang-e Tamam-Ayar ba Amricast / Sadha Moushak dar ekhtiar-e hezbollah va palestinian resistance (We will answer demands to visit Iran's military centers with hot lead, Said Sardar Salami in a live Interview. He added that our state-of-mind is having an all-around war with the United States and that hundreds of thousands of missiles are made available to Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance)," Sepah News, April 20, 2015, http://www.sepahnews.com/shownews.Aspx?ID=dafffb88-7158-4343-812f-64cec….
56 Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran, 22. See also Kenneth M. Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran and America (Random House, 2004), 149-150.
57 Sepehr Zabih, Iran since the Revolution (Croom Helm, 1982), 138.
58 See also Alireza Nader, The Revolutionary Guards, in Robin Wright, The Iran Primer, 59-61.
59 Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran, 31.
60 Said Amir Arjomand, After Khomeini: Iran under His Successors (Oxford University Press, 2009), 59.
61 Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran, 84.
62 "The Gulf States," Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment, July 7, 2015, http:// www.sentinel.janes.com.
63 Anthony M. Cordesman and Martin Kleiber, Iran's Military Forces and Warfighting Capabilities, 75.
64 "The Gulf States;" The Military Balance 2013, 379, claims that the Sepah has now 31 independent brigades, which seems likely.
65 "Iran: Military Balance Files," The Institute for National Security Studies, January 2, 2012, http://www.inss.org.il/uploadImages/systemFiles/20130102Iran.pdf.
66 Frederic Wehrey et al, The Rise of the Pasdaran, xvi.
67 Ibid., xvii-xviii.
68 "Zerehi-e Sepah Be Komak-e Gilan Amad: Kar-e Bazgoshai-e Rah-e Roustahay-e Ostan Be 'Nafarbar' Resid (IRGC Armored Came to Gilan to Rescue: The Task to Reopen Paths to Province Villages Was Given to the Vehicle)," 8Deynews, February 6, 2014, http://goo.gl/XXlMnB.
69Iran: A Country Study (Federal Research Division. 2004) 298. See also Ali Alfoneh, The Basij Resistance Force, cited in Robin Wright, The Iran Primer, 62-65.
70 "Tashkil-e 250 Gordan-e Ashireie-e Beit al-Moqadas (Formation of 250 Tribal Beit al-Moqdas Battalions)," Basij News, January 7, 2014, http://www.basijnews.ir/jihad_and_resistance/1392/10/17/index.html:id=2….
71 Peter Martonosi, "The Basij: A Major Factor in Iranian Security," Academic and Applied Research in Military Science 11, no. 1 (2012), 30-31.
72 Ibid., 31. See also Ali Alfoneh, "The Basij Resistance Force," United States Institute for Peace, n.d., http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/basij-resistance-force.
73 Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran, 38.
74 Ibid., 46.
75 Steven O'Hern, Iran's Revolutionary Guard, 46-48. For more about the Quds Force, see pp. 85-114.
76 Farnaz Fassihi, "Iran Said to Send Troops to Bolster Syria," Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2012, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390444230504577615393756632230; Ian Black, "Iran Confirms It Has Forces in Syria and Will Take Military Action If Pushed," Guardian, September 16, 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/sep/16/iran-middleeast; and Con Coughlin, "Iran Sends Elite Troops to Aid Bashar al-Assad Regime in Syria," Telegraph, September 6, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/9526858/Iran-….
77 In February 2012 in India, a bomb attached to the Israeli diplomat's car exploded. During the same day, explosive material attached to the Israeli embassy in Georgia was detected and neutralized. On February 14, 2012, in Thailand, a bomb accidentally exploded while being transported. The police force of this country found other bombs in a house rented by Iranians. On February 21, 2012, Azerbaijani Special Forces arrested the alleged Iranian agents who had prepared attacks on Israelis and Jewish minorities. Allegedly, the target was the Israeli ambassador. For more information on a clandestine war between intelligence agencies, see Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal, Mossad: The Great Operations (Random House Australia, 2012); and Yaakov Katz and Yoaz Hendel, Israel vs. Iran: The Shadow War (Potomac Books, 2012).
78 "Iran Missiles Can Hit All U.S. Bases in ME," Press TV, June 2, 2012, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/06/02/244236/iran-missiles-can-hit-al…. Adrian Blomfield, "Iran Will Attack U.S. Bases in the Persian Gulf If Israel Bombs Its Nuclear Facilities," Telegraph, September 4, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/9520865/Iran-…; and Lee Ferran, "Iran: We Can Hit 35 U.S. Bases in 'Minutes,'" ABC News, July 5, 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/iran-hit-35-us-bases-minutes/story?id=167…. See also "Iran Ballistic Missiles Can Hit Any Targets in Mideast: IRGC Cmdr," Press TV, February 11, 2015, http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/02/11/397092/Iran-missiles-can-hit-an….
79 A good example is an "apparently digitally altered" photograph showing testing of Shahab-3 missiles. Western experts concluded that at least one missile had not been launched due to its failure. See Gerard Baker, "Missile Photo Fake Is Latest Shot in Phoney War on Iran," Independent, July 11, 2008, http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/missile-photo-fake-is-latest….
80 Possible war scenarios available in Scott Johnson and Emily Chorley, "Studies in Pre-emption," Jane's Defence Weekly, March 28, 2012, 24-32.
81 "Farare 1 milion nafar az Israel dar avalin hafte jange Ian va rejime Seihonisty (One Million People Will Flee Israel in a War between Iran and the Zionist Regime within the First Week)," FARS News Agency, June 4, 2012, http://www.farsnews.com.
82 "Israel No Longer a Threat to Iran: IRGC Deputy Commander," MEHR News, September 23, 2012, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/52369/Israel-no-longer-a-threat-to-Iran-IRG….