A Look at Iran’s Military
Iran’s ongoing provocations, including launching nuclear capable missiles, attacking shipping, support for international terrorism, and ongoing threats of “death to America” and “death to Israel” are bringing the possibility of an armed clash closer to reality. Confronting the Tehran regime will be fraught with exceptional danger. Iran has a significant military, and is backed by Russia and China. Global Firepower provides this summary of Iran’s known military assets:
- 479 aircraft
- 398 ships (including 33 submarines)
- 1,658 tanks,
- 1,315 armored fighting vehicles,
- 320 self propelled guns,
- 2,078 towed artillery pieces,
- 1,474 multiple launch rocket systems
Iran Primer adds:
- Iran’s forces are strong enough to create major problems for any invasion, and Iran can threaten its neighbors by fighting asymmetric wars. Its conventional military – and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – have significant irregular warfare capabilities.
- Iran’s forces pose at least a near-term threat to shipping and tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, and the Indian Ocean. It cannot win a war to “close the Straits,” but can create major problems for petroleum exports for at least a few weeks.
- Iran’s capabilities are enhanced by its steadily growing ballistic missile and long-range artillery rocket forces. Iran is also a major supplier of weapons and military advice to Iraq, giving the Islamic Republic influence over Hezbollah, Hamas, and But Iran is proficient at irregular warfare. It has built up a powerful mix of capabilities for both regular and IRGC forces to defend territory, intimidate neighbors, threaten the flow of oil and shipping through the Gulf, and attack Gulf targets. It has a dedicated force to train and equip non-state actors like Hezbollah, Hamas and Shiite extremists in Iraq-potential proxies that give Iran leverage over other states.
Iran’s acquisition of long-range missiles from North Korea and development of its own liquid- and solid-fueled missiles has given it a strike capability that partly compensates for the weakness of its air force. It has declared that it is a chemical weapons power, and may have a biological weapons program. It has acquired the technology to produce fission nuclear weapons and has enriched uranium to levels where it is clear it can eventually produce fissile material. These capabilities help compensate for the limited capabilities of its conventional forces by increasing deterrence of outside attack and act as a deterrent to attacks on its irregular and asymmetric forces.
Iran may have unknown access to atomic capabilities, thanks to its close association and technology sharing with North Korea. It may also be able to tap Pakistani-originated nuclear expertise and facilities, as well. (In the nuclear deal reached during the Obama Administration, Iran agreed not to develop nuclear weapons for approximately a decade.)
A Forbes article noted that:
North Korea’s fifth nuclear test reminds us that Iran could also use its U.S.-begotten trove of hard currency to buy nuclear weapons technology – or even the warheads themselves – from cash-hungry North Korea. Congress might want to keep that risk in mind, as lawmakers debate how to address what appear to be two separate issues, cash for Iran and nuclear tests by North Korea. While there is no public information that connects Iran’s airborne cash bonanza with North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear projects, in the absence of far greater transparency and detailed accounting from the U.S. administration on both fronts, it would be folly to rule it out. Iran and North Korea have a long, intimate history of arms deals, including missile development. This partnership enhances the likelihood that a North Korean miniaturized warhead might be readily compatible with an Iranian missile.
Breitbart has information that indicates that the danger to Americans would not be restricted to the Middle East. In a 2015 article, it was noted:
Experts at a National Defense University (NDU) conference warned that the Iranian-backed narco-terrorist group Hezbollah… has expanded across Latin American and into the United States…the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) expressed concern about the movement of ‘special interest aliens’ in Latin America. Breitbart News reported that U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended at least 474 aliens from terrorism-linked countries attempting to sneak into the United States illegally [in 2014].
Originally published on the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.