Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran

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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
Service branches 23px Army (Artesh)

Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepāh)

23px Law Enforcement (Police)
Commander-in-chief Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
Chief of Staff
Commander of IRIA
Commander of IRGC
Commander of the LEF
Hassan Firuzabadi
Ataollah Salehi
Mohammad Ali Jafari
Hossein Ashtari
Active personnel 545,000
Reserve personnel 1,800,000
Budget $17.1 billion (2016)[1]
Percent of GDP 6% (2016)[2]
Domestic suppliers Defense Industries Organization
Iran Aviation Industries Organization
Aerospace Industries Organization
Iran Electronics Industries
Marine Industries Organization
Foreign suppliers  Russia
 North Korea
Related articles
History 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

Iraqi insurgency (2011–present)
Ranks Rank insignia of the Iranian military

The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Persian: نيروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ايران‎‎) include the Army (Artesh), the Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepāh) and the Law Enforcement Force.[4]

These forces total about 545,000 active personnel (not including the Law Enforcement Force(Police)).[5] All branches of 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.

Despite lacking the modern sophisticated military equipment its U.S allied neighbors have, Iran's military has been described as the Middle East's "most powerful military force" (exempting Israel) by retired US General John Abizaid.[6]


With the Iranian revolution in 1979, deteriorating relations with the United States of America 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 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 the American-led sanctions. Reaching back on equipment purchased from the U.S.A. in the 1970s, Iran began establishing its own armaments industry; its 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 states' naval vessels from accessing the sea, including marines and long-range Soviet planes capable of attacking aircraft carriers.[7]

A former military-associated police force, the Iranian Gendarmerie, was merged with the National Police (Sharbani) and Revolutionary Committees in 1990.

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 U.S. 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. 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.

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".[8] The country's military budget is the lowest per capita in the Persian Gulf region besides the UAE.[8]

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.[9]

On 4 December 2011, an American RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was captured by Iranian forces near the city of Kashmar in northeastern Iran.

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 United States Navy personnel when their boats entered Iranian territorial waters off the coast of Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf.


Major general Mohammad Bagheri, brigadier general Habibollah Sayyari and brigadier general Abdolrahim Mousavi reviewing plans of Velayat-90 Naval Exercise.
  • 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)
  • Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan (سرتیپ پاسدار حسین دهقان) (Minister of Defence)
  • Major General Seyed Hassan Firuzabadi (سرلشکر سید حسن فیروزآبادی) (Commanding General 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 Military 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 Commander in Chief of the Army)[11]
    • Brigadier General Abdolrahim Mousavi (امیر سرتیپ عبدالرحیم موسوی) (Chief of the Army Joint Headquarters)
    • Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan (امیر سرتیپ احمدرضا پوردستان) (Commander of the Army Ground Forces)
    • 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 Forces)[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 (سردار سرتیپ پاسدار حسین سلامی) (Commander of the IRGC Air Force)[11]
    • Brigadier General Mohammad Pakvar (سردار سرتیپ پاسدار محمد پاکپور) (Commander of IRGC Ground Forces)[15]
    • Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh (سردار سرتیپ پاسدار امیرعلی حاجیزاده) (Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Forces)[11]
    • Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi (سردار دريادار پاسدار علی فدوی) (Commander of IRGC Navy)[16]
    • Major General Qasem Soleimani (سردار سرلشکر پاسدار قاسم سلیمانی) (Commander of Quds Force)[17]
    • Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi (سردار سرتیپ پاسدار محمدرضا نقدی) (Commander of the Basij forces)[11]
  • Law Enforcement Force
    • Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari (سردار سرتیپ پاسدار حسین اشتری) (Commander-in-Chief of the Law Enforcement Force, in Persian: فرمانده کل نیروی انتظامی‎‎)


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.[22][23][24][25][26] 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.[27][28] It has also been reported in early 2010, that two new garrisons for cyberwarfare have been established at Zanjan and Isfahan.[29]


Iranian military spending as a % of Iran's GDP.

Iran's 2007 defense budget was estimated to be $11.096 billion by SIPRI (2.5% of GDP). Per capita or percentage of GDP, this was a lower figure than for other Persian Gulf states.[30]

Defense industry

The Fotros type of UCAV is considered the largest in Iran's arsenal of unmanned aerial vehicles. Iran has made several types of UAVs indigenously.
A formation flight of Iranian F-14 Tomcats, in 2008.
Iran has three Russian-built Kilo-class submarines patrolling the Persian Gulf.
A Moudge-class frigate and an AB 212ASW helicopter of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy
Iranian made, Zulfiqar tank.
Fateh-110 is a type of short range missile.
Emad is an Intermediate-range ballistic 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.[31] In 1973 the Iran Electronics Industries (IEI) was established.[32] The company was set up in a first attempt to organize the assembly and repair of foreign-delivered weapons.[33] 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.[33]

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.[34]

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.[35]

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.[31] Since 1992, it also claiming has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, radar systems, guided missiles, marines, military vessels and fighter planes.[36][37] Iran is also producing its own submarines.[38]

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.[39] 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.[40]

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."[41]

UAV program

Iran has produced several domestically developed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which can be used for reconnaissance and combat operations. Iran has also 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.[42]

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 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 in international forums against Iraq's use of such weapons.[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.[43]

Iran ratified the Biological Weapons Convention in 1973.[44] Iran has advanced biological and genetic engineering research programs supporting an industry that produces vaccines for both domestic use and export.[45]

Military aid

In 2013, Iran was reported to supply money, equipment, technological expertise and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to Syria's Government and Lebanon's Hezbollah during the Syrian civil war, and to the Iraqi government, Iraqi Shia militia, and Peshmerga during War on ISIL.[46]

See also


  3. "Iran, Belarus Sign Cooperation Agreements".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. No Operation. Retrieved on 2014-06-09.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 IISS Military Balance 2006, Routledge for the IISS, London, 2006, p.187
  6. "Why war with Iran would spell disaster". Retrieved 2015-10-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  8. 8.0 8.1 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Russian Military Alliance With Iran Improbable Due To Diverging Interests". RFE/RL. Archived from the original on 18 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. No Operation. Retrieved on 2014-06-09.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 [1] Archived October 13, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  12. No Operation. Retrieved on 2014-06-09.
  13. "Government creates 4th military arm: Air Defense". Iran Times International. February 20, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  14. "Apponitment of Farzaf Esmaili as commander of IRIADF". February 20, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Appoitment of Mohammad Pakvar as commander of IRGC Ground Force".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Appoitment of Ali Fadavi as commander of IRGC Navy". Mehrnews.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Iran Revolutionary Guards expect key changes in high command at the Wayback Machine (archived January 10, 2008). 4 August 2005
  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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. IISS Military Balance 2008, p.244
  21. Retrieved on 2014-06-09.
  22. Leyne, Jon (2010-02-11). "How Iran's political battle is fought in cyberspace". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Iran among 5 states with cyber warfare capabilities: US institute". 2006-11-22. Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Who's winning Iran's cyber-war?". Channel 4 News. 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "BBC فارسی - ايران - سایت رادیو زمانه هک شد". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Alka Marwaha (2009-06-24). "What rules apply in cyber-wars?". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Simon Tisdall (2010-02-03). "Cyber-warfare 'is growing threat'". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Beijing accuses U.S. of cyberwarfare". Washington Times. 2010-01-26. Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. BBC فارسی - ايران - قرارگاه های 'جنگ نرم' در اصفهان و زنجان راه اندازی شد. (1970-01-01). Retrieved on 2014-06-09.
  30. "SIPRI Publications". Retrieved 15 January 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Select "Iran" and click "mit"
  31. 31.0 31.1 Dar Al Hayat. Dar Al Hayat. Retrieved on 2014-06-09.
  33. 33.0 33.1 NTI: Country Overviews: Iran: Missile Chronology
  34. A Code of Conduct for Weapons Sales at the Wayback Machine (archived March 8, 2006). May 22, 1994
  35. Procurement: '''November 3, 2004'''. (2004-11-03). Retrieved on 2014-06-09.
  36. Iran Launches Production of Stealth . (2005-05-10). Retrieved on 2014-06-09.
  37. PressTv: Advanced attack chopper joins Iran fleet Retrieved May 24, 2009
  38. "Iran set to unveil new submarine class". UPI. July 19, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. British Broadcasting Corporation, Hezbollah drone flies over Israel, 7 December 2004
  40. 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
  41. Iran reports that Iran's Army has achieved self-suffiency in producing military equipment -, November 5, 2012
  42. Iran fires unarmed missiles at the Wayback Machine (archived November 7, 2006)
  43. Basic Facts on Chemical Disarmament at the Wayback Machine (archived June 9, 2008). Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
  44. Signatories of the Biological Weapons Convention. Retrieved on 2014-06-09.
  45. "Razi Institute produces dlrs 100 m worth of vaccines, serums a year". Archived from the original on 19 April 2006. Retrieved 2006-04-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  46. Warrick, Joby (2013-06-02). "National Security". The Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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