The Iranian military continues to get increased publicity in the light of the nuclear debate with the US. Here is a short introduction to the army of Iran.
The Iranian military is a robust and powerful entity. It is commonly agreed that they are second only to Israel in the middle-eastern region.
The Iranian military is split into three different areas – the regular armed forces, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF). Both the IRGC and the Regular Iranian army have ground forces, air and navy forces. However, the IRGC military branch is also comprised of a missile and special forces arm.
All three military arms are under the direction of Seyyed Ali Hossayni Khamenei – the Supreme / Spiritual Leader of Iran. The Supreme Leader has a representative in charge of each of the three arms.
The evolution of these three military arms within Iran was driven by events of the Iranian Islamic revolution in 1979. The new Islamic government were suspicious of the regular armed military force as they had previously worked to protect the Shah prior to his overthrow. For this reason, the IRGC were formed as a way of decentralising military power from the regular army. One of the original purposes of the IRGC military arm was to protect the purity of Islamic theology practiced in Iran. The regular army is committed to protecting Iranian territory, independence and general order within the country.
When Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, the IRGC military arm served in parallel with the regular armed forces.
Following sanctions against Iran, Iran is believed to have secured military material from Russia, China and North Korea. As an example, Russia has been pursuing a deal with Iran to sell military equipment to the country in a US $ 700 million deal. The military equipment in question will primarily involve mobile surface-to-air missile defence systems. The US has asked all countries known to be selling military equipment to Iran to stop such activities in view of the nuclear activities taking place in Iran.
The US continues to supply military equipment to Israel, making Israel the most well equipped military power in the middle-east. It is clear however, that Iran do not need to rely on the US to build their own arsenal of military weapons and that they are able to secure them elsewhere, via countries who are more than willing to supply them.
This makes the intentions of the US and Israel against Iran of greater concern as it’s likely that Iran will provide a formidable opposition against invasion with yet more lives being lost within the region and greater instability being created.