Organization, Size, and Equipment
As faqih, Khomeini is constitutionally designated supreme
commander of the armed forces. He has delegated his powers to
the president, who may in turn delegate authority as required.
Important decisions regarding defense policies are made by the
SDC, which combines senior members of the armed services with
senior members of the government.
In 1979, the year of the shah's departure, the army experienced
a 60-percent desertion from its ranks. By 1986 the regular army
was estimated to have a strength of 305,000 troops (see
table 8, Appendix). In the fervor of the Revolution and in
the light of numerous changes affecting conscripts and reservists,
the army underwent a structural reorganization. Under the shah,
the army had been deployed in 6 divisions and 4 specialized combat
regiments supported by more than 500 helicopters and 14 Hovercraft.
An 85-percent readiness rate was usually credited to the force,
although some outside observers doubted this claim. Following
the Revolution the army was renamed the Islamic Iranian Ground
Forces (IIGF) and in 1987 was organized as follows: three mechanized
divisions, each with three brigades, each of which in turn was
composed of three armored and six mechanized battalions; seven
infantry divisions; one airborne brigade; one Special Forces division
composed of four brigades; one Air Support Command; and some independent
armored brigades including infantry and a "coastal force." There
was also in reserve the Qods battalion, composed of ex-servicemen.
After the mid-1970s, military manpower was unevenly deployed.
Nearly 80 percent of Iran's ground forces were deployed along
the Iraqi border, although official sources maintained that the
military was capable of rapid redeployment. Although air force
transports were used extensively, redeployment was slow after
the start of the war. The Mashhad division headquarters, in the
eastern part of the country, has remained important because of
Soviet military operations in Afghanistan and resulting Afghan
migration into Iran (see Refugees
, ch. 2).
In the past, Iran purchased army equipment from many countries,
including the United States, Britain, France, the Federal Republic
of Germany (West Germany), Italy, and the Soviet Union. By late
1987, Iran had diversified its acquisitions, obtaining arms from
a number of suppliers. Among them were the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea (North Korea), China, Brazil, and Israel. The
diversity of the weapons purchased from these countries greatly
complicated training and supply procedures, but, faced with a
war of attrition and a continuous shortage of armaments, Iran
was willing to purchase from all available sources (see Foreign
Influences in Weapons, Training, and Support Systems , this ch.).
The IIGF operated almost 1,000 medium tanks in 1986 (see table
9, Appendix). Although a large number were British-made Chieftains
and American-made M-60s, an undetermined number of Soviet-made
T-54 and T-55s, T-59s, T-62s, and T-72s were also part of the
inventory, all captured from the Iraqis or acquired from North
Korea and China. There was also a complement of fifty British-made
Scorpion light tanks. Several hundred Urutu and Cascavel armored
fighting vehicles from Brazil joined American-made M-113s and
Soviet-made BTR-50-60s. An undetermined number of Soviet-made
Scud surface-to-surface missiles were acquired from a third country,
believed to be Libya. And in November 1986, the United States
revealed that it had supplied the Iranian military with Hawk surface-to-air
missiles and TOW antitank missiles via Israel.
The army's aviation unit, whose main operational facilities were
located at Esfahan, was largely equipped with United States aircraft,
although some helicopters were of Italian manufacture. In 1986
army aviation operated some 65 light fixed-wing aircraft, but
its strength lay in its estimated 320 combat helicopters, down
from 720 in 1980.
Data as of December 1987