The Islamic Republic of Iran's armed forces are the second most powerful in the Middle East (after the Israeli Defence Force). Their command structure is unique doe to the nature of Iran's theocratic government. The Commander in Chief of Iran's Armed Forces is the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. There is a Minister of Defence and Armed Forces logistics, but he is responsible for only funding and planning. Operational command is outside the Ministry's remit.
The armed forces have three primary components. The regular forces are Iran's main armed forces, and were in existance prior to the 1979 Revolution. The Iranian Revolutionary
The components are as follows:
- Regular forces
- Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
- Ground Forces of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
- Air Force of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
- Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
- Voluntary paramilitary force under the control of the AGIR.
Before the 1979 Revolution, Iran procured its arms mainly from the United States, and from the United Kingdom. France was also a supplier, and was important in the beginnings of Iran's nuclear program. American arms include the M60 Patton main battle tank, the F-14 Tomcat fighter, and the MIM-23 HAWK surface to air missile. Prominent British arms include the Chieftain main battle tank, and the Alvand class Corvette.
Since the 1979 Revolution, Iran was cut off from its main sources of arms. During the Iran-Iraq War very little could be acquired. Israel provided some arms (though this is denied by Iran), as did the United States (the Iran-Contra scandal, and the Arms-for-Hostages affair). The Soviet Union also provided arms. North Korea was Iran's major supplier during the war (North Korea also supplied Iraq).
Since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, Iran has developed an extensive military industry (see below). Its choice of foreign suppliers has switched to China, Russia, and North Korea. An unexpected source of military aircraft was Iraq. During the 1991 Gulf War, several Iraqi Air Force pilots sought refuge in Iran, their aircraft being impounded, and placed into IRIAF service.
Iranian military industryEdit
Initially created in the mid-1970s to repair foreign-manufactured equipment, Iran's defence industry has by necessity evolved toward the production of a diverse range of weapons, from small arms to aircraft, to ballistic missiles. Iran has reverse-engineered, adapted, or designed from scratch several weapon systems.
Types of military equipment produced by Iran are as follows:
- Fighter aircraft
- Transport aircraft
- Training aircraft
- Attack helicopters
- Transport helicopters
- Unmanned aerial vehicles
- Ballistic missiles
- Aircraft upgrades
- Anti-tank missiles
- Surface to air missiles
- Guided bombs
- Air to air missiles
- Armoured fighting vehicles
- Rocket artillery
- Small arms
- Midget submarines
There has been almost no independent, Western inspections of these weapon systems, making it difficult to tell if the capabilities boasted of by Iran are real, or if the weapons are 'vapourware'. It is widely believed that the equipment produced by Iran tends to be less sophisticated than Western equivalents (or even Russian equivalents)
Weapons of Mass DestructionEdit
Iran is presently believed to be developing nuclear weapons to fit to its arsenal of ballistic missiles and combat aircraft. Iran has several nuclear reactors for power generation, research and, according to Western sources, nuclear weapons fuel production. It is also enriching uranium.