Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran
|Iranian Armed Forces|
Logo of the General Staff of the Armed Forces
|Service branches|| Army|
|Commander-in-chief||Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei|
|Chief of Staff||MG Mohammad Bagheri|
|Active personnel||650,000 (ranked 8th)|
|Budget||US$17.4 billion (2019)|
|Percent of GDP||3.8% (2019)|
|Ranks||Rank insignia of the Iranian military|
The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Persian: نيروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ايران, romanized: Nīrūhā-ye Mosallah-e Jomhūri-ye Eslāmi-ye Īrān) comprise the Army (Artesh), the Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepāh) and the Law Enforcement Force (Police) of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Iranian Armed Forces are numerically the largest and arguably the most powerful in the Middle East. These forces total about 650,000 active personnel (not including the Law Enforcement Force) plus 1,050,000 reserve and trained personnel that could be mobilized when needed. That makes a total of 2,010,000 military personnel that Iran could mobilize. All branches of the armed forces fall under the command of General Staff of Armed Forces. The Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics is responsible for planning logistics and funding of the armed forces and is not involved with in-the-field military operational command.
By the late Qajar dynasty, Persia formed the world's first unified military consisting of the Ground, Naval and Air Forces. After the coup in 1953, Iran began purchasing some weapons from Israel, the United States and other countries of the Western Bloc. Later, Iran began establishing its own armaments industry; its efforts in this remained largely unrecognised internationally, until recently.
Following the Iranian revolution in 1979, deteriorating relations with the U.S. resulted in international sanctions led by the US, including an arms embargo being imposed on Iran.
Revolutionary Iran was taken by surprise by the Iraqi invasion that began the Iran–Iraq War of 1980–1988. During this conflict, there were several conflicts against the United States. From 1987, the United States Central Command sought to stop Iranian mine-laying vessels from blocking the international sea lanes through the Persian Gulf in Operation Prime Chance. The operation lasted until 1989. On April 18, 1988, the US retaliated for the Iranian mining of the USS Samuel B. Roberts in Operation Praying Mantis. Simultaneously, the Iranian armed forces had to learn to maintain and keep operational, their large stocks of US-built equipment and weaponry without outside help, due to the American-led sanctions. However, Iran was able to obtain limited amounts of American-made armaments, when it was able to buy American spare parts and weaponry for its armed forces, during the Iran–Contra affair. At first, deliveries came via Israel and later, from the US.
The Iranian government established a five-year rearmament program in 1989 to replace worn-out weaponry from the Iran–Iraq War. Iran spent $10 billion between 1989 and 1992 on arms. Iran ordered weapons designed to prevent other states' naval vessels from accessing the sea, including marines and long-range Soviet planes capable of attacking aircraft carriers.
In 1991, the Iranian armed forces received a number of Iraqi military aircraft being evacuated from the Persian Gulf War of that year; most of which were incorporated into the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force.
From 2003, there have been repeated US and British allegations that Iranian forces have been covertly involved in the Iraq War. In 2004, Iranian armed forces took Royal Navy personnel prisoner, on the Shatt al-Arab (Arvand Rud in Persian) river, between Iran and Iraq. They were released three days later following diplomatic discussions between the UK and Iran.
In 2007, Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces also took prisoner Royal Navy personnel when a boarding party from HMS Cornwall was seized in the waters between Iran and Iraq, in the Persian Gulf. They were released thirteen days later.
According to Juan Cole, Iran has never launched an "aggressive war" in modern history, and its leadership adheres to a doctrine of "no first strike". The country's military budget is the lowest per capita in the Persian Gulf region besides the UAE.
Since 1979, there have been no foreign military bases present in Iran. According to Article 146 of the Iranian Constitution, the establishment of any foreign military base in the country is forbidden, even for peaceful purposes.
In 2012, it was announced that Iran's Quds Force is operating inside Syria providing the government of Bashar al-Assad with intelligence and direction against rebel opposition. There is an emphasis on the monitoring of protesters' use of the internet and mobile phone networks, including text messaging.
In December 2012, Iran stated it had captured an American ScanEagle UAV that violated its airspace over the Persian Gulf. Iran later stated it had also captured two other ScanEagles.
In 2016, Revolutionary Guard forces captured US Navy personnel when their boats entered Iranian territorial waters off the coast of Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf. They were released the next day following diplomatic discussions between the US and Iran.
- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic, in Persian: فرمانده کل قوا, romanized: Fermānande-ye Kol-e Qavā)
- Brigadier General Amir Hatami (امیر سرتیپ امیر حاتمی) (Minister of Defence)
- Major General Mohammad Bagheri (سردار سرلشکر پاسدار محمد باقری) (Commander of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, in Persian: رئیس ستاد کل نیروهای مسلح)
- Brigadier General Mohammadreza Gharaei Ashtiani (امیر سرتیپ محمدرضا قرایی آشتیانی) (Deputy commander of General Staff of the Armed Forces, in Persian: جانشین رئیس ستاد کل نیروهای مسلح)
- Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi (سردار سرلشکر پاسدار یحیی رحیم صفوی) (Senior Military Advisor to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution)
- Islamic Republic of Iran Army
- Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi (امیر سرلشکر عبدالرحیم موسوی)(Commander-in-Chief of the Army, in Persian: فرمانده کل ارتش)
- Brigadier General Mohammad-Hossein Dadras (امیر سرتیپ محمدحسین دادرس) (Deputy Commander in Chief of the Army)
- Rear admiral Habibollah Sayyari (امیر دریادار حبیبالله سیاری) (Chief of the Army Joint Headquarters)
- Brigadier General Kioumars Heydari (امیر سرتیپ کیومرث حیدری) (Commander of the Army Ground Forces)
- Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh (امیر سرتیپ عزیز نصیرزاده) (Commander of the Air Force)
- Brigadier General Alireza Sabahifard (امیر سرتیپ علیرضا صباحیفرد) (Commander of Air Defense Force)
- Rear admiral Hossein Khanzadi (امیر دریادار حسین خانزادی) (Commander of the Navy)
- Major General Hossein Salami (سردار سرتیپ پاسدار حسین سلامی) (Commander-in-Chief of the IRGC, in Persian: فرمانده کل سپاه پاسداران)
- Rear admiral Ali Fadavi (سردار دریادار پاسدار علی فدوی) (Deputy Commander of the IRGC)
- Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi (سردار سرتیپ بسیجی محمدرضا نقدی) (Chief of the IRGC Joint Headquarters)
- Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour (سردار سرتیپ پاسدار محمد پاکپور) (Commander of IRGC Ground Force)
- Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh (سردار سرتیپ پاسدار امیرعلی حاجیزاده) (Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force)
- Rear admiral Alireza Tangsiri (سردار دريادار پاسدار علیرضا تنگسیری) (Commander of IRGC Navy)
- Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani (Commander of Quds Force) 
- Brigadier General Gholamreza Soleimani (سردار سرتیپ پاسدار غلامرضا سلیمانی) (Commander of the Basij Resistance Force)
- Law Enforcement Force
- The Iranian regular military, or Islamic Republic of Iran Army, consists of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army Ground Forces, Islamic Republic of Iran Navy, Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, and the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Defense Force. The regular armed forces have an estimated 398,000 personnel: the Islamic Republic of Iran Army Ground Forces with 350,000, of which 220,000 are conscripts; the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy with 18,000, and the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force with 37,000 airmen. The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Defense Force is a branch split off from the IRIAF and has 15,000 personnel.
- The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Revolutionary Guards, has an estimated 190,000 personnel in five branches: Its own Navy, Aerospace Force, and Ground Forces; and the Quds Force (special forces).
- The Basij is a paramilitary volunteer force controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Its membership is a matter of controversy. Iranian sources claim a membership of 12.6 million, including women, of which perhaps 600,000 are combat capable. There are a claimed 2,500 battalions of which some are composed of full-time personnel. GlobalSecurity.org quotes a 2005 study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimating 90,000 active-duty full-time uniformed members, 300,000 reservists, and a total of 11 million men that can be mobilised if need be.
It has been reported that Iran is one of the five countries that has a cyber-army capable of conducting cyber-warfare operations. It has also been reported that Iran has immensely increased its cyberwarfare capability since the post presidential election un-rest. Furthermore, China has accused the United States of having initiated a cyber war against Iran, through websites such as Twitter and YouTube and employing a hacker brigade for the purpose of fomenting unrest in Iran. It has also been reported in early 2010, that two new garrisons for cyberwarfare have been established at Zanjan and Isfahan.
|Formation||Army||Air defense||Air force||Navy||Paramilitary||Extraterritorial||Total|
|Islamic Republic of Iran Army||350,000||15,000||37,000||18,000||N/A||N/A||420,000|
|Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps||150,000||15,000||20,000||40,000||5,000||230,000|
Under the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran's military industry was limited to assembly of foreign weapons. In the assembly lines that were put up by American firms, such as Bell, Litton and Northrop, Iranian workers put together a variety of helicopters, aircraft, guided missiles, electronic components and tanks. In 1973 the Iran Electronics Industries (IEI) was established. The company was set up in a first attempt to organize the assembly and repair of foreign-delivered weapons. The Iranian Defense Industries Organization was the first to succeed in taking a step into what could be called a military industry by reverse engineering Soviet RPG-7, BM-21, and SAM-7 missiles in 1979.
Nevertheless, most of Iran's weapons before the Islamic revolution were imported from the United States and Europe. Between 1971 and 1975, the Shah went on a buying spree, ordering $8 billion in weapons from the United States alone. This alarmed the United States Congress, which strengthened a 1968 law on arms exports in 1976 and renamed it the Arms Export Control Act. Still, the United States continued to sell large amounts of weapons to Iran until the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
After the Islamic revolution, Iran found itself severely isolated and lacking technological expertise. Because of economic sanctions and a weapons embargo put on Iran by the United States, it was forced to rely on its domestic arms industry for weapons and spare parts, since there were very few countries willing to do business with Iran.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards were put in charge of creating what is today known as the Iranian military industry. Under their command, Iran's military industry was enormously expanded, and with the Ministry of Defense pouring investment into the missile industry, Iran soon accumulated a vast arsenal of missiles. Since 1992, it has also produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, radar systems, guided missiles, marines, military vessels and fighter planes. Iran is also producing its own submarines.
In recent years, official announcements have highlighted the development of weapons such as the Fajr-3 (MIRV), Hoot, Kowsar, Fateh-110, Shahab-3 missile systems and a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles, at least one of which Israel claims has been used to spy on its territory. In 2006, an Iranian UAV acquired and allegedly tracked the American aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan for 25 minutes without being detected, before returning safely to its base.
On November 2, 2012, Iran's Brigadier General Hassan Seifi reported that the Iranian Army had achieved self-suffiency in producing military equipment, and that the abilities of Iranian scientists have enabled the country to make significant progress in this field. He was quoted saying, "Unlike Western countries which hide their new weapons and munitions from all, the Islamic Republic of Iran's Army is not afraid of displaying its latest military achievements and all countries must become aware of Iran's progress in producing weaponry."
Iran has produced several domestically developed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which can be used for reconnaissance and combat operations. Iran has also claimed to have downed, captured and later reverse-engineered US and Israeli drones.
Ballistic missile program
On November 2, 2006, Iran fired unarmed missiles to begin 10 days of military simulations. Iranian state television reported "dozens of missiles were fired including Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 missiles. The missiles had ranges from 300 km to up to 2,000 km. Iranian experts have made some changes to Shahab-3 missiles installing cluster warheads in them with the capacity to carry 1,400 bombs." These launches came after some United States-led military exercises in the Persian Gulf on October 30, 2006, meant to train for blocking the transport of weapons of mass destruction.
Iran is also believed to have started the development of an ICBM/IRBM missile project, known as Ghadr-110 with a range of 3000 km; the program is believed to be a parallel of the advancement of a satellite launcher named IRIS. Iran also dedicated underground ballistic missile programs
Weapons of mass destruction
Iran started a major campaign to produce and stockpile chemical weapons after a truce was agreed with Iraq after 1980-88 Iran–Iraq War. However, Iran ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997. Iranian troops and civilians suffered tens of thousands of casualties from Iraqi chemical weapons during the 1980-88 Iran–Iraq War.
Even today, more than twenty-four years after the end of the Iran–Iraq War, about 30,000 Iranians are still suffering and dying from the effects of chemical weapons employed by Iraq during the war. The need to manage the treatment of such a large number of casualties has placed Iran's medical specialists in the forefront of the development of effective treatment regimens for chemical weapons victims, and particularly for those suffering from exposure to mustard gas.
Iran ratified the Biological Weapons Convention in 1973. Iran has advanced biological and genetic engineering research programs supporting an industry that produces vaccines for both domestic use and export.
In 2013, Iran was reported to supply money, equipment, technological expertise and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to the Syrian government and Hezbollah during the Syrian civil war, and to the Iraqi government and its state-sponsored organizations the Popular Mobilization Forces, and Peshmerga during War on ISIL.
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- List of military equipment manufactured in Iran
- Equipment of the Iranian Army
- Current Iranian Navy vessels
- List of Iranian Air Force aircraft
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- Iran's Military: Strangely Powerful - slideshow by Life magazine
- Air University, Bibliography on Iran's military strategy
- The Gulf: Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War: Iran Center for Strategic and International Studies (2006)
- Iran & The Gulf Military Balance Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011)