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Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL)

Operational Commands

In general, operational area commands were subordinate to the Joint Staff, and each armed force component was subordinate to the operational area command in accordance with its own command structure. In 1987 there was only the Western Operational Area Command, which was responsible for the war with Iraq. Established to provide more effective control of wartime operations, this area appeared to be the precursor of the planned Northern, Southern, and Eastern Operational Area Commands.

The Western Operational Area Command was similar in structure to the armed forces Joint Staff except that it was also the lowest operational echelon at which naval forces were integrated into combined-services operations and planning. Although Operational Area Command Joint Staff members exercised operational control over all troops within their area, they were subject to several constraints. Generally speaking, Pasdaran, Gendarmerie, and National Police units operating in an internal security mission, particularly against insurgents, were detached from the Operational Area Command and subordinated to the senior Pasdaran commander in the province in which they were engaged. Air and naval units continued to be partially controlled by their service commanders and responded to the Western Operational Area Command Joint Staff through specialized liaison staffs. The commander of the Operational Area was further burdened by the presence at his headquarters of an Supreme Defense Council representative and a personal representative of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. These influential individuals could effectively take any matter over the commander's head to higher authority. In 1987 the Supreme Defense Coucil 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.

Below the Operational Area Command were four field headquarters (FHQ), code-named FHQ Karbala, FHQ Hamzeh Seyyed ash Shohada, FHQ Ramadah, and FHQ An Najaf. The FHQs were organized on the model of the Western Operational Area Command except that they did not have naval integration. Subordinate to each FHQ were from three to eight operational sectors. Each operational sector did not necessarily have its own air support unit.

Additional echelons consisting of a commander and staff drawn from the Joint Staff of the participating FHQs could be created during major offensives. The purpose of these echelons was to overcome logistical shortcomings, concentrate and deploy forces as needed, and combine the services, particularly the naval forces, in offensive operations.

The reorganization of the command-and-control system could largely be attributed to the Urumiyeh proposals. The war with Iraq naturally increased the level of integration, particularly between regular military officers commanding Pasdaran units and Pasdaran officers commanding regular military units. The Pasdaran fell administratively under the Ministry of Defense in 1989. At this time they were also formally integrated into the sucessor to the Supreme Defense Council, the Supreme National Security Council.

Logistical problems also came under increasing scrutiny because of the war. The military's weak infrastructure required the centralization of logistics and supply. The sophisticated computer inventory and accounting systems of the ground, air, and naval logistical commands had been sabotaged during the Revolution, and the country lost valuable time while bringing these systems back into service. Improvements in logistical support proved quite rewarding, revealing, for example, that Iran possessed twice as many critical spare parts for its aircraft as were previously believed to exist. Nevertheless, the Iranian armed forces faced a logistical dilemma in deploying supplies to troops at the front. Lack of maintenance skills translated into a decreased repair and salvage capacity, creating serious bottlenecks. Vehicles in need of repair had to be transported to repair centers hundreds of kilometers from the front, along stretches of poorly maintained roads and railroads. Under such circumstances cannibalization of damaged equipment for spare parts, particularly for sophisticated equipment, became the norm. Without a solution in sight, Iranian authorities relied on the "down time" between major offensives to resupply units before resuming offensive operations. This practice further prolonged the war, because multi-phased operations could not be launched and sustained.

Integration of the service branches and of the regular armed forces and IRGC plagued the Iranian military throughout the Iran-Iraq War. Attempts to manage the problem by the creation of the Supreme Defense Council (SDC) were not overly successful. A revised council, the Supreme National Security Council, with vastly expanded powers and control replaced the SDC in 1989. The beginnings of real integration in post-Revolution Iran came in 1991 when Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani was given dual responsibility as Chief of Staff of the Navy and head of the Pasdaran Navy, creating a unified command for these elements, though they remained administratively seperate.

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