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Iran Security Doctrine

By mid-2020, IRGC was in command of the legislature, the judiciary, the intelligence and security apparatus as well as the economy and financial institutions. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has appointed hard core IRGC members as heads of each power centre and tasked them with the full implementation of 'Phase Two' of the Revolution. The doctrine, compiled after the killing of Gen. Soleimani, calls for “a push towards defeating the enemy, the US,” and for “extensive sacrifice to preserve the ruling order.” Arguing in several right-wing publications, IRGC strategists are asking for a more confrontational approach towards the US. They recommend shifting closer towards Russia and China and strengthening the 25-year Cooperation Agreement with China which extends military and economic cooperation.

Despite what war hawks say, the idea that Iran is run by ‘apocalyptic religious fanatics’ who have no grounding in the real world is simply contrary to fact. Iran’s military strategy is one of deterrence. The fundamental principles of Iran’s military doctrine were laid out in the regulations codified for the armed forces in 1992, under the title “Iran: Complete Regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran Armed Forces.” Because Iran’s armed forces and equipment were exhausted by the war with Iraq and subsequent arms resupply was severely limited by an international embargo and by Iran’s poor economic position, the 1992 doctrine depended heavily on a deep supply of manpower, the strategic advantages provided by the nation’s geography, and the patriotic ideology inherited from Ayatollah Khomeini.

The primary goals of the doctrine were defensive: to protect the territory of Iran and the practice of Islam on that territory. Increasingly in the 1990s and early 2000s, Iran’s long-term historical effort to preserve influence in its region was focused on ending what it considered the most urgent threat to that influence: the US presence in the Persian Gulf region. In the early 2000s, the doctrine still relied on manpower, territory, and ideological fervor, and the fundamental goals remained the same. However, by 2000 the offensive and defensive phases of the doctrine had been refined by external events and by Iran’s improved financial and technological resources.

In the aftermath of the war with Iraq, changes in Iran’s regional, political, and geo-strategic situation required adjustments of military strategy and defense doctrine for which the revolutionary government was unprepared. However, the Iran– Iraq War had the positive result of highlighting grave military shortcomings. The war proved to the government that without a system of alliances Iran needed more aggressive “defensive” weapons, or some type of WMD, that could deter a ruthless enemy such as Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein. During the war, Iraq had used its missile capability to hit Tehran and other targets, while Iran could hardly respond. In the last stages of the war, Iraq also used chemical weapons to inflict severe casualties on Iranian troops and civilians.

After the Iran–Iraq War, Iran’s security policy generally shifted from revolutionary adventurism to a more conservative, less confrontational approach. However, this policy faced a new strategic environment after the US military presence in the Persian Gulf began to expand in the early 1990s. The conflict with the United Arab Emirates over the Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs, the steady buildup of Iran’s capacity to threaten tanker traffic, Iran’s development of long-range ballistic missiles, and allegations of an active WMD program in Iran alienated the Persian Gulf states and the West. Furthermore, after the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Iran confronted a strong coalition dominated by the United States and continued exclusion from the Gulf Cooperation Council, the regional security organization that included all the other Persian Gulf states except Iraq when it was founded in 1981.

The military doctrine that Iran has chosen in the postwar years includes a narrow range of options that focus mainly on deterrence. The emphasis on self-reliance has placed a higher priority on domestic arms production and on a small number of foreign military supply relationships. The quest for international military prestige through conventional and (potential) nuclear missile capability has led to regional and international isolation that contradicts the doctrinal goal of improving relations and security within the Persian Gulf region.

Until the Persian Gulf War, most threats to Iran involved regional territorial disputes or conflicts with neighboring states. The arrival of US troops in the region in 1991 created a new strategic situation in which Iran felt insecure. Although

US troops withdrew from Iraq later that year, during the 1990s the direct and indirect influence of the United States in the region combined with Israel’s maturing missile programs to exacerbate Iran’s insecurity. To the west was the still-hostile Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, and, in the second half of the decade, to the east was the hostile, fundamentalist regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Although Iran moderated its public revolutionary stance during this period, the doctrine of protecting Islam came to involve supporting such Islamic organizations as the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hizballah. However, links with these groups had the result of further isolating Iran. At the end of the 1990s, the Iranian government shifted its doctrine to emphasize joint military operations with neighboring countries, with the goal of reducing US influence in the region. This approach met with considerable skepticism among adjacent states, and international events soon overtook Iran’s efforts in that direction.

The terrorist attack on the United States of September 11, 2001, had a strong impact on Iran’s military thinking. After September 11, the United States, which Iran continued to perceive as its principal enemy, received an outpouring of international sympathy, during which it established a military presence in Afghanistan. Against a background of deep internal political divisions, Iran’s sense of encirclement intensified. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 exacerbated Iranian insecurities. Iran responded with increased claims about a US psychological war against the revolutionary government and warnings that it would retaliate for hostile military acts.

In 2001 Iran had taken a conciliatory approach toward the war in Afghanistan led by the United States, offering limited assistance to US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops. On the issue of the threatened US invasion of Iraq, however, Iranian policy makers believed that national security was at stake and a clear position was needed. To ensure international control of Iraq’s ostensible WMD arsenal, Iran advocated a solution involving the United Nations rather than military action. It also opposed a unilateral attack by the United States because such an action might create a precedent for attacking Iran itself. The Iranian government took the position that Iraqi political boundaries should remain intact and that the people should choose their own government. Factors in this position were Iran’s fears that a potential Kurdish state in northern Iraq would arouse internal instability among Iran’s Kurds and that a pro-US government in Iraq would encourage antiregime sentiment in Iran.

Because of ongoing concerns about a potential preemptive military strike by Israel on its nuclear facilities, Iran accelerated development of its defensive capabilities, despite uncertainties about the range, targeting, and effectiveness of missiles such as the Shihab–3. The Iranian government made unsubstantiated claims about the potential of the Shihab–3 to discourage attack and to otherwise improve Iran’s regional bargaining position. Both the exaggerated claims about its ballistic missiles and the renewal of uranium enrichment had the goal of bolstering Iran’s geopolitical stature by calling attention to its military potential. The advancement of the nuclear program appeared to transcend party ideology within Iran, even as other aspects of military doctrine became subject to heated debate.

In the wake of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Iran’s military doctrine included three basic objectives: to foster long-term recovery from the Iran–Iraq War by enhancing the stability of the region; to defend Iranian territory and interests against any form of external intrusion or attack; and to safeguard Islamic values and the nation’s right to live in freedom (as defined by Islamic laws) “without resorting to military operation.” Beginning in 2003, increasing alarm about a possible US invasion led to expansion of Iran’s capacity to fight an “asymmetrical war,” in which an invading force would be absorbed into Iran and then subjected to guerrilla warfare, supplemented by attacks against the enemy’s interests overseas. The basic elements of such irregular warfare would be surprise, speed, and security. Presumably to advance its irregular-warfare capability, Iran started to increase recruiting of new Basij personnel in 2004 and incorporated irregular operations into the training of regular military units. In any case, the ground forces’ outmoded armor and artillery support, and their heavy dependence on mobilization of IRGC forces, severely limited Iran’s potential to fight a conventional land war.

The naval phase of Iran’s military doctrine emphasizes utilization of the geographical configuration of the Persian Gulf in asymmetrical warfare. Iran’s limited naval resources are to be used for small-scale attacks on military and oil-related targets and blockades of oil shipping in the gulf. Small attack boats, minisubmarines, and mines are key elements in this strategy. The air phase of the doctrine has two main elements: ballistic missiles and air defense. The missile force is the main element of the air doctrine. Its value is to be enhanced by the intimidation effect of rhetoric hinting at weapons of mass destruction, increased range, and possible targeting of Israel or the capitals of Persian Gulf states. Air defenses have been strengthened only minimally since they were found wanting in the Iran–Iraq War. Iran has sought to maximize its limited air-defense forces by strategic location, hardening, and concealment.

The naval phase of Iran’s military doctrine emphasizes utilization of the geographical configuration of the Persian Gulf in asymmetrical warfare. Iran’s limited naval resources are to be used for small-scale attacks on military and oil-related targets and blockades of oil shipping in the gulf. Small attack boats, minisubmarines, and mines are key elements in this strategy. The air phase of the doctrine has two main elements: ballistic missiles and air defense. The missile force is the main element of the air doctrine. Its value is to be enhanced by the intimidation effect of rhetoric hinting at weapons of mass destruction, increased range, and possible targeting of Israel or the capitals of Persian Gulf states. Air defenses have been strengthened only minimally since they were found wanting in the Iran–Iraq War. Iran has sought to maximize its limited air-defense forces by strategic location, hardening, and concealment.

The naval phase of Iran’s military doctrine emphasizes utilization of the geographical configuration of the Persian Gulf in asymmetrical warfare. Iran’s limited naval resources are to be used for small-scale attacks on military and oil-related targets and blockades of oil shipping in the gulf. Small attack boats, minisubmarines, and mines are key elements in this strategy. The air phase of the doctrine has two main elements: ballistic missiles and air defense. The missile force is the main element of the air doctrine. Its value is to be enhanced by the intimidation effect of rhetoric hinting at weapons of mass destruction, increased range, and possible targeting of Israel or the capitals of Persian Gulf states. Air defenses have been strengthened only minimally since they were found wanting in the Iran–Iraq War. Iran has sought to maximize its limited air-defense forces by strategic location, hardening, and concealment.

Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour stated on 10 July 2019 that the country's military has developed a new "deep-attack doctrine" designed to conduct offensive operations against enemies and even started exercises based on it during the Payambar-e Azam 12 war games in December 2018. The general further stated that in line with the new doctrine, Iran will be improving not only its military training programmes, but also military equipment, which has received numerous upgrades over the last few years. "The IRGC Ground Force’s drone and missile power has grown considerably compared to the past, and this will boost our power in battles", Pakpour said.




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Page last modified: 21-11-2020 18:39:39 ZULU