Forces: November 16, 2004

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Despite the continued reform efforts in Iran, the real political power remains with the fundamentalist clerics, who control the military, police, and the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards. The Revolutionary Guards are not technically part of the military, and are a separate armed force. This is much the same way that the KGB and MVD possessed their own conventional ground forces in the Soviet Union, and yet remained apart from the regular military. Irans Constitution provides that the militarys mission is to safeguard the country from invasion, the Revolutionary Guards mission is to safeguard the Islamic Revolution itself. A large part of this mission entails enforcing the strict code of Islamic law. By best estimates, the Guards consist of at least several hundred thousand enlisted men and officers organized into battalion-sized units. The average estimate is around 350,000 officers and men. Although the Guards are not officially part of the military, they are basically a force unto themselves, comprising armored, infantry, air defense, and engineer units organized along conventional military lines. Like most of the Iranian military, the Guards equipment is largely outdated, since no one seems to want to supply Iran with large quantities of sophisticated arms. However, with Irans burgeoning domestic arms industry, the sophistication of the Revolutionary Guards weapons could change in the future. The Guards were heavily active in the war against Iraq in the 1980s, when hundreds of thousands of Guardsmen died fighting the Great Satan Saddam Hussein. Since they have the Guards at their disposal, the clerical leadership no longer requires the support of the army to crush internal dissent. Thus, the Guards act as a combination of a military, police force, and internal security service. In September of this year, the Revolutionary Guards kicked off major military exercises and reportedly tested out new military equipment. Exactly what equipment they are referring to remains unclear, but it was mentioned that the Guards would be practicing moving T-72 tanks via transport planes. However, despite the boasting of its generals, the Guards will need a lot more than just religious fanaticism if they are ever to face a well-trained and equipped enemy like the US. Weapons carried by the Revolutionary Guards include locally-produced Heckler and Koch G3 assault rifles (Iran has domestically produced the G3 since before the Islamic Revolution when it had a contract with the company), and Russian AK-47s (probably captured from Iraqi troops during the war). Heavier equipment would probably include captured Iraqi vehicles (T-54/55s, T-62s), and older US equipment from the days of the Shah. 

 


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