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Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran

نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران

Nīrūhā-ye Mosallah-e Jomhūri-ye Eslāmi-ye Īrān
Headquarter of Iran Armed Forces Emblem
Founded 1923 (as modern military)
Current form 1980
Service branches

Seal of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army.svg Army
IRI.Army Ground Force Seal.svg Ground Force
Seal of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force.svg Air Force
Seal of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy.svg Navy
Seal of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Defense Force.svg Air Defense Force

40px IRGC
Headquarters Tehran
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei
Commander of the General Command of the Armed Forces 19- Sarlashgar-IRGC.pngMajor General Hassan Firuzabadi
Active personnel 545,000 (ranked 8th)
Reserve personnel 1,800,000 (ranked 6th)
Budget $9.041 billion (2012)[1]
(25th by total expenditure)
Percent of GDP 1.8% (2012)[1]
Domestic suppliers Defense Industries Organization
Iran Aviation Industries Organization
Aerospace Industries Organization
Iran Electronics Industries
Marine Industries Organization
Foreign suppliers  Belarus[2]
 North Korea
Related articles

Military history of Iran
Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran
Iran crisis of 1946
Dhofar Rebellion
Seizure of Abu Musa
Consolidation of the Iranian Revolution
Iran–Iraq War
Kurdish Civil War
Herat Uprising
Balochistan conflict
Iran–PJAK conflict

Syrian civil war

Air Force Ranks Insignia
Army Ranks Insignia
Navy Ranks Insignia

IRGC Ranks Insignia

The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Persian: نيروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ايران‎) include the IRIA (ارتش جمهوری اسلامی ایران) and the IRGC (سپاه پاسداران انقلاب اسلامی) and the Law Enforcement Force[3] (نيروی انتظامی جمهوری اسلامی ایران).

These forces total about 545,000 active personnel (not including the Law Enforcement Force).[4] All branches of armed forces fall under the command of General Headquarters of Armed Forces (ستاد کل نیروهای مسلح). 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.

Iran's military was called the Middle East's most powerful by General John Abizaid, Commander, United States Central Command (U.S. forces' commander in the region). However, General Abizaid said he did not include the Israel Defense Forces as they did not fall into his area of operations.[5]


When the Pahlavi dynasty took power in 1925, following years of war with Russia, the standing Persian army was almost non-existent. The new king Reza Shah Pahlavi, was quick to develop a new military. In part, this involved sending hundreds of officers to European and American military academies. It also involved having foreigners re-train the existing army within Iran. In this gap the Iranian Air Force was established and the foundation for a new Navy was laid.

Britain and the Soviet Union invaded Iran in 1941 in order to secure the area from German interventions. Following World War II, 1500 Iranian troops supported the Sultan of Oman against the Dhofar Rebellion from 1962–1975. In 1971, Iranian forces besieged Abu Musa and the Tunb islands. Before the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran contributed to United Nations peacekeeping operations. Iran joined ONUC in the Congo in the 1960s, and ten years later, Iranian troops joined UNDOF on the Golan Heights.

With the Iranian revolution in 1979, deteriorating relations with the United States resulted in international sanctions led by the USA, 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 confrontations with 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 U.S. retaliated for the Iranian mining of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58)in Operation Praying Mantis. Simultaneously, the Iranian armed forces had to learn to maintain and keep operational, their large stocks of U.S.-built equipment and weaponry without outside help, due to American sanctions. Reaching back on equipment purchased from the U.S.A. in the 1970s, the Iranians began establishing their own armaments industry; their efforts in this remained largely unrecognised internationally, until recently. 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 USA.

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 naval vessels from accessing the sea, including submarines and long-range Soviet planes capable of attacking aircraft carriers.[6]

A former military-associated police force, the Iranian Gendarmerie, was disbanded in 1990.

In 1991, the Iranian armed forces received a number of Iraqi aircraft fleeing 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 U.S. and British allegations that Iranian forces have been covertly involved in the Iraq War. In 2007, Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces also took prisoner Royal Navy personnel when a boarding party from HMS Cornwall (F99)was seized in the waters between Iran and Iraq, in the Persian Gulf.

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".[7] The country's military budget is the lowest per capita in the Persian Gulf region besides the UAE.[7]

Since 1979, there are 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.[8]


File:Supreme Leader of Iran and Commanders 2.jpg

Supreme Leader of Iran with Iranian military commanders.

  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Supreme Leader and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, in Persian: فرمانده کل قوا)
  • Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi (سرتیپ پاسدار احمد وحیدی) (Minister of Defense)[9]
  • Major General Seyed Hassan Firuzabadi (سرلشکر سید حسن فیروزآبادی)(Head of the Armed Forces General Command Headquarters, in Persian: رئیس ستاد کل نیروهای مسلح)
  • Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi (سردار سرلشکر یحیی رحیم صفوی) (Senior Advisor to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution)[10]
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Army
    • Major General Ataollah Salehi (امیر سرلشکر عطاءالله صالحی)(Commander-in-Chief of the Army, in Persian: فرمانده کل ارتش)
    • Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani (امیر سرتیپ محمدرضا قرایی آشتیانی) (Deputy Chief of the Army)[11]
    • Brigadier General Abdolrahim Mousavi (امیر سرتیپ عبدالرحیم موسوی) (Chief of the Joint Headquarter of the Army)
    • Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan (امیر سرتیپ احمدرضا پوردستان) (Commander of the Ground Force)
    • Brigadier General Hassan Shahsafi (امیر سرتیپ حسن شاه‌صفی) (Commander of the Air Force)[12]
    • Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili (امیر سرتیپ فرزاد اسماعیلی) (Commander of Air Defense Force)[13][14]
    • Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari (امیر دریادار حبیب‌الله سیاری) (Commander of the Navy)
  • IRGC
    • Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari (سردار سرلشکر محمدعلی جعفری)(Commander-in-Chief of the IRGC, in Persian: فرمانده کل سپاه پاسداران)
    • Brigadier General Hossein Salami (سرتیپ پاسدار حسین سلامی) (Chief of IRGC Air Force)[11]
    • Brigadier General Mohammad Pakvar (سرتیپ پاسدار محمد پاکپور) (Commander of IRGC Ground Force)[15]
    • Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh (سرتیپ پاسدار امیرعلی حاجیزاده) (Commander of IRGC Aerospace Force)[11]
    • Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi (دریادار پاسدار علی فدوی) (Commander of IRGC Navy)[16]
    • Major General Qasem Soleimani (سرلشکر پاسدار قاسم سلیمانی) (Commander of Quds Force)[17]
    • Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naghdi (سرتیپ پاسدار محمدرضا نقدی) (Commander of Basij forces)[11]
  • Law Enforcement Force
    • Brigadier General Esmaeil Ahmadi-Moghaddam (سرتیپ پاسدار اسماعیل احمدی‌مقدم) (Commander-in-Chief of the Law Enforcement Force, in Persian: فرمانده کل نیروی انتظامی)


  • 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 3 million are combat capable. There are a claimed 2,500 battalions of which some are full-time personnel.[20] 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 mobilized if need be.[21]

It has been reported that Iran is one of the five countries having 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.[22][23][24][25][26] Furthermore China has accused United States of having initiated a cyber war against Iran, through sites such as Twitter and YouTube and employing a hacker brigade for the purpose of fomenting unrest in Iran.[27][28] It has also been reported in early 2010, that two new garrisons for cyberwarfare have been established at Zanjan and Isfahan.[29]


Military expenditures (% GDP)

Iran's 2007 defense budget was estimated to be $7.31 billion by London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.[30] This was $102 per capita, a lower figure than other Persian Gulf nations and lower as a percentage of gross national product than all other Persian Gulf states (2.6% of GDP in 2007). This makes Iran's ranking the 25th largest defense expenditure globally.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute the 2008 military expenditure was $9.174 billion, 2.7% of the GDP.[1]

On February 2012 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented the administration’s draft of the national budget bill for Iranian calendar year 1391 which shows an increase of 127 percent for defense budget.[31]

Defense industry

File:Phantoms are fueling from Boeing 707.jpg

The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force is equipped with a fleet of F-4 Phantom II and F-14 Tomcat aircraft provided by the United States before the Iranian Revolution. Iran also produces its own fighter jets, such as the HESA Saeqeh


Iran has 3 Russian-built Kilo class submarines patrolling the Persian Gulf. Iran is also producing its own submarines.[32]

Iranian made Zulfiqar tank

Fateh-110 is the most accurate Iranian missile

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.[33] In 1973 the Iran Electronics Industries (IEI) was established.[34] The company was set up in a first attempt to organize the assembly and repair of foreign-delivered weapons.[35] 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.[35]

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.[36]

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.[37]

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.[33] Since 1992, it also has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, radar systems, guided missiles, submarines, military vessels and fighter planes.[38][39]

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.[40] 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.[41]

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."[42]

Ballistic 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 come 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.[43] 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 paralleled with advancement of a satellite launcher named IRIS.

Weapons of mass destruction

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. As a result, Iran has publicly stood against the use of chemical weapons, making numerous negative comments against Iraq's use of such weapons in international forums.[citation needed]

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.[44]

Iran ratified the Biological Weapons Convention in 1973.[45] Iran has advanced biological and genetic engineering research programs supporting an industry that produces vaccines for both domestic use and export.[46]

Military aid to Syria & Hezbollah

In 2012 and 2013, Iran was reported to supply money, equipment, technological expertise and unmanned aerial vehicles (a.k.a. 'drones') to Syria's Assad regime and Lebanon's Hezbollah during the Syrian civil war.[47]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "SIPRI Publications". Retrieved 15 January 2011. Select "Iran" and click "Submit"
  2. "Iran, Belarus Sign Cooperation Agreements". 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 IISS Military Balance 2006, Routledge for the IISS, London, 2006, p.187
  5. Iran Favors Asymmetric Strategy In Joust With US
  6. Pipes, Daniel; Patrick Clawson (1992/1993). "Ambitious Iran, Troubled Neighbors". pp. 127. Digital object identifier:10.2307/20045501. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Cole, Juan (2009-10-02). "The top ten things you didn't know about Iran: The assumptions most Americans hold about Iran and its policies are wrong". Salon. 
  8. "Russian Military Alliance With Iran Improbable Due To Diverging Interests". RFE/RL. Archived from the original on 18 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3
  13. "Government creates 4th military arm: Air Defense". Iran Times International. February 20, 2009. [dead link]
  14. "Appoitment of Farzaf Esmaili as commander of IRIADF". February 20, 2009. 
  15. "Appoitment of Mohammad Pakvar as commander of IRGC Ground Force". 
  16. "Appoitment of Ali Fadavi as commander of IRGC Navy". Mehrnews. 
  17. Iran Revolutionary Guards expect key changes in high command
  18. 18.0 18.1 "The Consequences of a Strike on Iran: The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy" Global Bearings, 15 December 2011.
  19. "Air Defense Unit Added to Iran's Armed Forces". Farsnews. February 15, 2009. 
  20. IISS Military Balance 2008, p.244
  22. Leyne, Jon (2010-02-11). "How Iran's political battle is fought in cyberspace". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  23. "Iran among 5 states with cyber warfare capabilities: US institute". 2006-11-22. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  24. "Who's winning Iran's cyber-war?". Channel 4 News. 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  25. "‭BBC ‮فارسی‬ - ‮ايران‬ - ‮سایت رادیو زمانه هک شد‬". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  26. Alka Marwaha (2009-06-24). "What rules apply in cyber-wars?". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  27. Simon Tisdall (2010-02-03). "Cyber-warfare 'is growing threat'". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  28. "Beijing accuses U.S. of cyberwarfare". Washington Times. 2010-01-26. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  30. Cordesman: Conventional Armed Forces in the Gulf authored by Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy
  31. "Iranian defense budget for 1391 shows an increase of 127 percent". Mehrnews. February 1, 2012. 
  32. "Iran set to unveil new submarine class". 
  33. 33.0 33.1 Dar Al Hayat
  35. 35.0 35.1 NTI: Country Overviews: Iran: Missile Chronology
  36. A Code of Conduct for Weapons Sales Video Transcript
  37. Procurement: November 3, 2004
  38. - Iran Launches Production of Stealth Sub
  39. PressTv: Advanced attack chopper joins Iran fleet Retrieved May 24, 2009
  40. British Broadcasting Corporation, Hezbollah drone flies over Israel, 7 December 2004
  41. Iranian drone plane buzzes U.S. aircraft carrier in Persian Gulf, May 30, 2006 and Iran Uses UAV To Watch US Aircraft Carrier On Gulf Patrol
  42. Iran reports that Iran's Army has achieved self-suffiency in producing military equipment -, November 5, 2012
  43. Iran fires unarmed missiles at the Wayback Machine (archived November 7, 2006)
  44. Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
  45. Signatories of the Biological Weapons Convention
  46. "Razi Institute produces dlrs 100 m worth of vaccines, serums a year". Archived from the original on 19 April 2006. Retrieved 2006-04-22. 

Further reading

  • (French) Alain Rodier, The Iranian Menace PDF, French Centre for Research on Intelligence, January 2007 - Order of Battle, strategy, asymmetric warfare, intelligence services, state terrorism. Includes detailed order of battle for both regular army and Revolutionary Guard
  • Anthony H. Cordesman, Iran's Military Forces in Transition: Conventional Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, ISBN 0-275-96529-5
  • 'Iranian exercise reveals flaws in air defences,' Jane's Defence Weekly, 9 December 2009
  • Kaveh Farrokh, Iran at War: 1500-1988, Osprey Hardcover, released May 24, 2011; ISBN 978-1-84603-491-6.

External links

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