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Supreme Defense Council (SDC)

Iran's strategic planning and the establishment of its military and defense policies have been the responsibilities of the Supreme Defense Council (SDC, and sometimes referred to as the Supreme National Defense Council), created in 1980, which has representatives at operational area and field headquarters to provide political and strategic guidance to field commanders. SDC representatives may also veto military decisions.

According to Article 110 of the 1979 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the faqih (an expert in Islamic religious jurisprudence; in Iran the Supreme Leader assumes this function) was empowered to appoint and dismiss the chief of the Joint Staff, the commander in chief of the Pasdaran, two advisers to the Supreme Defense Council (SDC), and the commanders in chief of ground, naval, and air forces on the recommendation of the SDC. He was also authorized to supervise the activities of the SDC and to declare war and mobilize the armed forces on the recommendation of the SDC. As faqih, Ayatollah Khomeini, although maintaining the role of final arbiter, delegated the post of commander in chief to the president of the Republic.

Iran's President, in his capacity as the chairman of the SDC, had ultimate responsibility for all Defense Inustries Organization (DIO) operations. The DIO is a state conglomerate of arms and other military related insturies. The SDC also authorized the creation of a seperate grouping of organizations specifically for the Pasdaran in 1983.

In addition to specifying the duties of the commander in chief, Article 110 establishes the composition of the SDC as follows: President of the country, Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, Chief of the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces, Commander in Chief of the Pasdaran, and two advisers appointed by the faqih. Other senior officials may attend SDC meetings to deliberate national defense issues. In the past, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Interior, Minister of the Pasdaran and his deputy, Air Force and Navy Commanders in Chief, War Information Office Director, and others have attended SDC meetings. The Ground Forces Commander in Chief following the 1979 Revolution, Colonel Seyyed-Shirazi, was a member of the SDC as a representative of the military arm for the faqih, whereas Majlis (the Iranian parliament) speaker Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani was representative of the political arm for the faqih.

Initially the commander of an operational area was burdened by the presence at his headquarters of an SDC representative and a personal representative of Ayatollah Khomeini. Both of these influential individuals could effectively take any matter over the commander's head to higher authority. In 1987 the SDC representative in the Western Operational Area Command was also the Pasdaran commander for the operational area command, a situation that further complicated the command and control system. Reports in 1987 indicated that SDC orders to regional representatives had been modified to limit the heavy casualty rates caused by their inappropriate advice. Inexperienced non-military religious advisers had seen their interference in purely technical matters dramatically curtailed.

The Urumiyeh reorganization proposals recognized the administrative separation of the services as part of Iran's political reality. Consequently, as of 1987 there were two chains of command below the SDC, one administrative and the other operational. To some extent this dual chain of command existed because the revolutionary government had retained a modified version of the organizational structure of the Imperial Iranian Armed Forces (IIAF), which was modeled on the United States division of powers between the administrative functions of the service secretaries and the operational functions of the secretary of defense and chiefs of staff. In addition, the IRP leaders wanted to limit friction between the regular military and the Pasdaran. According to Speaker Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the service Commanders in Chief, the Minister of Defense, and the Minister of the Pasdaran were removed from the operational chain to avoid further friction between the two groups.

The Supreme Defense Council was replaced with the reorganized and expanded Supreme National Security Council in 1989.




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