Series: Armed Forces in the Middle East (Iran)

Iran ranks fifth in the list of the most powerful militaries in the Middle East. Here are some data.

$6.3 billion defense budget
545,000 active frontline personnel
2,409 tanks
481 aircraft

Iran has faced arms embargoes put in place by the United States since the 1979 Islamic revolution and the embassy hostage crisis that followed. In response, Iran has developed its own domestic military industry under the guidance of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Iran has been building its own tanks and long-range missiles since 1992, as well as reverse-engineering its own drones. This means that Iran fields inferior equipment compared with many of its US-supplies neighbors — but gains crucial strategic depth in return.

It has an uninterrupted supply chain to its allies, like Syria’s Assad regime. And it doesn’t have to depend on the good will of an outside power to remain armed.

“Thirty-five years ago, Iran had no local production capability,” Harmer says. “Now they build their own submarines and surface ships. Nobody in the Middle East does that, not even the Israelis.”

Iran also maintains a number of US weapons that the country had purchased prior to its 1979 revolution, along with foreign weapons it bought afterward. Among these weapons are US-made F-14 Tomcats and Russian-built Su-24s and Su-25s.

Iran has been involved in numerous proxy conflicts, including funneling supplies and fighters into Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and Lebanon. The militant organization Hezbollah is largely an extension of Iranian foreign policy into the Arab Middle East.

That doesn’t make Iran a major conventional military power, though. As Megahan says, the military is hampered by corruption and poor leadership, with regime loyalty often mattering more than merit among the officer corps. Iran has invested heavily in building its own weaponry, including ballistic missiles. It’s all unproven.

“They try really hard to have an indigenous military industry,” he says. “There not a lot of evidence to suggest that it’s actually really going well.”

Key allies: Syria, Shi’ite militant groups in Iraq and Lebanon, and Sudan.

Source Business Insider UK 2014

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