Sunday, March 7, 2010

Production of Nasr AShM Starts

Mass Production of Nasr AShM Starts

Source: Fars News

Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi inauguration a production line of Nasr anti-shipping missiles on March 7th 2010. Pictures and video were also aired of it being tested during the latest round of "Unity" naval war-games.

The missile itself seems to be based off both the Chinese C-704 as well as the TL-6 and can be fired from a variety of platforms including land batteries and naval platforms such as the China Cat fast attack boat.

The Chinese have a long history of close cooperation with Iran when it comes to anti-ship missiles for obvious reasons, both are looking for a way to hamstring the worlds most powerful navy. In fact, i suspect that the relationship is not just a one-way street where China sells Iran their missiles, but the short timeliness involved almost necessitate involvement of Iran in the research and development phase.

One interesting feature about this is that there appears to be actually two missiles, one based off the TL-6, and the other based off the C-704. They are very similar missiles so it's not a readily apparent difference, but it exists in the shape of the fins, the TL-6 having static fins (as in the picture below showing it's launch from the C-14 China Cat) whole the C-704 has pop-out fins like on the Noor/C-802, like in the picture below of it on the rack in the factory.

Lastly, a curioisty during the exhibition showed the "Nasr-1" partially in the launch tubes but instead of having the flip-out fins, it didn't have any but the control surfaces instead. This is particularly puzzling as it showed the control fins attached where the glide fins are normally located (about midway on the missile) the missile displayed only had the warhead section on display, which isn't necessarily that odd, but the fin's position relative to it was. This is pictured last. The glide-fins were displayed alongside this missile(not pictured here), but had no where to be attached. This is a real mystery to say the least.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Iran's Military Relationship with Eritrea

Iran's Military Relationship with Eritrea

Eritrea is a relative new-comer to Irans foreign relations community, as they, up until recently, close allies of the US and other western powers, however as their former allies turned to their arch-enemy Ethiopia as well as supporting Djibouti in recent border conflicts as well as blaming the rise of insurgents in these countries on Eritrea. As a response, they have turned to alternate parties to seek assistance from.

The relations between the two countries were spearheaded by a May 2008 meeting between Iranian president Ahmadinejad and his Eritrean counterpart, Afwerki, in Tehran. During which, according to Afwerki, a groundwork for the establishment of “….mutual investment in the agriculture, industry and energy sectors and regional and international cooperation’ He added that the two countries shared common views on the regional and global issues, the hegemonic system’s performance and ways to resist the hegemony. (1) This was cemented later the same year in September when a memorandum of understanding was signed supporting Iranian investment in Eritrea. In addition to this, the ‘Export Development Bank of Iran’ gave $35 million to Eritrea to help finance trade relations. (2) One of the payoff’s of these deals was seen in June of 2009 when Afwerki publicly supported Iran’s nuclear ambitions. (3) It was also seen when Iran was asked to mediate the continuing disputes between Eritrea and Djibouti due to its good relations with both countries, but this will be discussed in full in the Djibouti section.
Near the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, the latest buzz on Iranian foreign relations was that they were stationing a military base in Eritrea, but how reliable is this information? If it was true it would represent a significant increase in Iran’s ability to hamstring the world oil supplies as they would now have control over not just Hormuz, but the Red Sea as well. The truth however is far less tantalizing. In November of 2008, a prominent Eritrean opposition group, the EDP or Eritrean Democratic, came out with news that Iran planned to revamp an ex-Soviet built oil refinery based out of the town of southern town of Assab, located close to the Djiboutian border. (4) This story then escalated throughout the internet, being reposted and embellished upon. Before long the story included tales of Iranian submarines moving legions of IRGC troops as well as long range ballistic missiles and SAM’s. For instance a few days later, the ‘Sudan Tribune” jumped on this bandwagon, referencing the same Selfi-Democracy article as saying that Iran had deployed submarines, troops and ballistic missiles to Assab, information that was nowhere in the original report. (5) This was picked up and spread by none other then the NCRI, the National Council for Resistance of Iran who then proposed the SAM batteries as well as the explicit mention of the Quds force and other IRGC elements, their reference? (6) You guessed it, the same Selfi-Democracy article that spurred the other articles, the same one that didn’t mention one word about a military presence, to say nothing of the institutional bias an opposition group would have against the Eritrean government as well as their lack of credible sources. In the end, while it is certainly conceivable that Iran would station missiles or mines in the port town of Assab, there is no hard evidence that this is the case. This position was confirmed by a May 2009 announcement by the Eritrean government, saying they were disinformation campaigns by Israel. (7)

One possible update though that could potentially throw my whole belief off balance is a report by Radio France International, or RFI, in May of 2009 that possibly relates evidence on how Iranian submarines were actually observed in port as well as the Pasdaran being moved in, during 2009, rather then the previous observation indicating they were already there.. I say possibly because the original article was in French and since I was forced to use a translation tool, which are always shady to say the least. To top it off, I had to ‘interpret’ the translation, converting it from broken English to what I believe the article was trying to convey. (8) On the whole though this is very dubious and is very likely to just be a mistranslation or using the same evidence as the other articles. I consider the actual observance of an Iranian submarine in Eritrea to be a very slim possibility. Another possible problem came when Israelis reported that the two cruisers, the IRIS Naghdi and Alborz, sent to fight pirates in the Gulf of Aden were stationed at Assab for an indeterminate amount of time. But again this news does come from Israeli sources as well as the fact that they were at the port does not mean anything by itself other then they were there for resupply. (9)

Slightly more recently however the rumours have been about the smuggling of arms from Iran, through intermediaries to the Palestinian territories. While the issue is mostly focused on Sudan’s role in the process as they are obviously the most prominent party, there has also been talk of Eritrea’s participation. Israeli sources suspect the two ships (named above) that were sent to fight pirates in the Gulf of Aden and that were docked in Assab also unloaded shipments of weapons that would later be smuggled up through Egypt. (10) Also of note is that during the attack by Israelis on the arms convoys travelling through the desert, many Eritreans were killed indicating the possibility that the weapons shipment was first offloaded in Eritrea, then travelled through Sudan rather then originating from Port Sudan (11) Of course, this was predictably denied by Eritrean officials saying that ties between Iran and Eritrea were not as close as everyone claimed. (12)

(1) “No Limit for Iran-Eritrea Cooperation: President” Tehran Times. May 20th 2008 http://www.tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=168993
(2) “Iran. Eritrea to Boost Economic Ties” Tehran Times. September 16th 2008
(3) “Eritrea Supports Iran’s Nuclear Programme” Afrol News. June 6th 2009 http://www.afrol.com/articles/25668
(4) “Top Secret Deal? Iran to Control the Eritrean Port of Assab” Selfi-Democracy. November 25th 2008. http://www.selfidemocracy.com/?read=articles/articles/1227571403News-Iran-Assab1_PDF_e.pdf
(5) “Iran Deploys Troops, Missiles in Eritrean Port – Opposition” Sudan Tribune. November 29th/30th 2008 http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article29431
(6) “Deployment of the Iranian regime's IRGC in the Port of Assab in Eritrea” NCRI. January 4th 2009. http://ncr-iran.org/content/view/5938/1/
(7) “Eritrea Denies Hosting Iranian Forces” Sudan Tribune. May 10th 2009 http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article31116
(8) “Des Pasdarans Iraniens en Erythree”. Radio France International. May 7th 2009 http://www.rfi.fr/actufr/articles/113/article_80819.asp
(9) “Report: US Navy to Fight Arms Smuggling from Iran” Ynet. January 25th 2009 http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3661223,00.html
(10) “US Navy Seeks Arms Bound for Hamas” Times Online. January 25th 2009 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5581382.ece
(11) “The Meeting of Lepers, Piracy in the Sea and Arms Smuggling” Asmarino Independent March 26th 2009 http://asmarino.com/en/news-analysis/107-the-meeting-of-lepers-piracy-in-the-sea-and-arms-smuggling-
(12) “Eritreas Ambassor: Iran Not Smuggling Arms To Hamas in our Territory” Jerusalem Post. April 24th 2009. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1239710776561&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Iran's Military Relationship with Somalia

Iran's Military Relationship with Somalia

Somalia, next to Sudan has always been a keystone state in Iran’s ambitions of spreading political-Islam. The failed nature of the state means there would be no need to overthrow a government, but instead, only to form one. Somalia has also been favoured because of its strategic location near the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and the commanding position on the horn. Iran’s presence in Somalia first started in the early 1990’s as a join-operation with Sudan in order to combat the international peace-keeping-force. However lately, the relationship has again sparked up due to the emergence of a credible Islamic movement, first being the popular Islamic Courts Union (ICU, or sometimes, the UIC), then. Iran’s goals in Somalia are most likely the same as they were in revolutionary Sudan, backing an Islamist party and hopefully the establishment of a stable Pro-Iranian Arab theocracy. However while this has been the main focus of Iranian relations with Somalia, their relations did not start there, but instead began during the Somali civil war in the 1990’s. It should be noted though that Iran's ambitions have largely been tempered since the early days of the Islamic revolution when it truly believed in exporting the revolution, now Iran isn't attempting to spark massive revolutions across the Arab world, but instead just trying to gain allies much like Hezbollah, the Mahdi Army and to some extend, Palestinian groups.

Iranian involvement in Somalia piggybacked onto the action of its close ally, Sudan. Since the collapse of Siad Barre in 1991, Sudan had been supporting revolutionaries in Somalia, and naturally they began to exploit the deep clan divisions to lead the militias toward a path of militant Islam, and by 1992, Sudanese-sponsored Islamic movements were sprouting up everywhere. At this time, Sudan was primarily using Iranian support to fund the groups, but Iran had not directly entered the picture. (1)

Direct support by Iran began after US declared its intent to intervene militarily in November of 1992 . Mohammed Yazdi, an Ayatollah who was then head of the Iranian Judiciary, travelled to Sudan and met with Hassan-al Turabi, one of the heads of the recently formed Islamic Sudanese state as well as being the mastermind behind their action in Somalia, in order to establish Iranian training camps run by the IRGC. This is covered in further depth within the ‘Sudan’ section. While there they established a joint-committee headed by Turabi’s assistant, Ali Othman Taha, and on the Iranian side, General Rahim Safavi. Safavi was later promoted to Chief Commander of the IRGC in 1997 where he served for 10 years until his replacement by Mohammad Ali Jafari. The join commission went on to form a close alliance with, and become the primary sponsor of the Somali Islamic Union Party (SIUP). Training them in IRGC training camps within Sudan. Under their new-found support the SIUP grew rapidly and controlled much of Somalia by the Fall of 1992, including Bosaso in the north, and Marka and Jamaame, while their Sudanese backed allies controlled the Gulf of Aden. (2)

The Sudanese-Iranian strategy in Somalia at the time was extremely forward thinking, foreshadowing a global shift to asymmetric strategies against superior forces. The Safavi-Taha strategy dictated that rather then a series of battles between the SIUP or SRG and the peace-keeping forces, they would rather serve to incite an Islamist rebellion led by locals rather the regular Iranian militias. (3) This sharp escalation would then drive a wedge between the population and the peace-keeping forces, eventually rendering the ‘humanitarian operation’ an exercise in futility. Paul Shay in ‘Somali Between Jihad and Restoration’ claims that the Iranians became disaffected and fed-up with this strategy as it was too slow and began to unilaterally ‘up the ante’ by sending Afghan veterans and Quds force special operatives equipped with MANPAD’s, as well as pouring further training, arms and advisor's into Somalia in early-1993. (4) However there is no contradiction between the strategy as was developed in 1992 and Iranian actions that compose a small-scale sponsorship of locals by small teams of advisers, in fact, the latter is really the epitome of the former.

Yosseg Bodansky in ‘Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America’ has trumpets the supposed Bin Laden-Iran connection, he claims that Iran and Bin Laden both worked together in Somalia.(5) However he ends up reading to much into the case, the case study of Somalia is comparable to the US-Bin Laden connection a few years earlier. In other words, popularly cited, but actually false, in both cases both parties (Iran and the US) were both funding groups that Bin Laden was also funding, because of a shared ideological goal (expulsion of the US and Soviets, respectively) but without being any real connection otherwise).

Iran also chose to ally themselves with the Somalia National Alliance (SNA), one of the most powerful groups in the country at the time, and led by Gen. Mohammed Aidid, the infamous warlord that was the focus of the US’s wrath. In mid-1993 Aidid visited Tehran multiple times securing support. As a result Iran poured weapons and training for SNA forces into the capital of Mogadishu, it was later reported that this support enabled SNA forces to successfully pull off their anti-UN operations within the city, particularly the assault on US on October 3-4.(6) But the support did not end with the US withdrawal in March 1994, they stepped up their support in order to consolidate their hold on the capital and expel the remainder of UN forces. In May 1994 Iran sent shiploads of small arms to the SNA.(7) Then, one year later, in January of 1995 the SNA sent a representative, Abdirahman Agaweyne to Tehran to secure additional assistance. He received two airplane-loads of small arms including 23 surface-to-air MANPAD systems in addition to 126 boxes of AK-47 ammunition, 126 boxes of G3 ammunition (indicating that the rifles too were exported earlier, perhaps in the original 1994 shipload), and 480 rounds of 106mm M-40 recoilless rifle ammunition. There were also unspecified amounts of other weapons and ammunition included. (8) The March 1995 withdrawal by UN forces no doubt emboldened Iran, indicating that using proxies to fight a guerrilla campaign against superpowers can indeed be successful.

Relations between Iran and Somali groups tapered off following the expulsion of foreign forces. Though it is my opinion that this would have been the perfect time to seize the initiative and launch a full support campaign so Islamist forces could fully take control of the country. Instead the conflict raged on for another 11 years until in 2006 the Islamic Courts Union and their allies rose into prominence. It was at this time that the ties with Iran again sprang up and as the ICU’s battle against the warlords raged, Iran’s airlift campaign once again sprung into action. On July 25th 2006, Iran airlifted the following; 1,000 units of PKM machine guns and M-79 grenade launchers along with 200 boxes of ammunition for the PKM’s; 45 units of surface-to-air MANPAD’s; an unknown quantity of mines; 2,500 units of uniforms, water cans and first-aid kits; and finally 600 boxes of packages food. Also included were three Iranian doctors to provide battle-field medical training. Iran rejected all claims of any flights to the region during the time period. (9) Then again on August 17th of the same year, Iran shipped a large consignment of food aid as well as 80 surface-to-air MANPAD’s and rocket launchers, perhaps RPG’s, the wording of the report is ambiguous to the exact nature. Also included were 120 sealed crates of medical supplies, though the sealed nature indicates they could be carrying more arms. Iran refused to comment on these accusations (10)

Iran also provided to the ICU through another avenue, Hezbollah. In July of 2006, the ICU sent a 720-person strong contingent (this number should be highly suspect given the impossibility of not a single independent or Israeli source being able to confirm their presence) to fight in Lebanon’s ‘Summer War’ with Israel. After the fighting was finished, 80 of the original 720 returned to Somalia, 40 of them being wounded and specially flown in by Iranian planes to a private hospital in Mogadishu. Of the remaining number, small amounts were killed in action (assuming we can extrapolate from Hezbollah’s casualties), officially they underwent training in Lebanon. However given the logistical problems of training ~600 foreign fighters (after all, Hezbollah itself only has 500+ full-time regulars), it is my belief that they more likely received their training either in Syria or one of the numerous training camps in Iran. Regardless, between September 8th and 10th, 25 Somalis returned accompanied by 5 Hezbollah advisers. In exchange for their service in Lebanon, the ICU were to be granted additional material support from both Iran and Syria, it is likely that the August shipment of weapons detailed above constituted this repayment. (11) Then again during the ICU’s war with the Puntland militias, a contingent of Hezbollah fighters fought alongside the ICU and supplied them with Iranian SA-7’s and SA-18’s, some estimates range as high as 250, though this number likely include missiles and not launchers alone. Also included were AT-3 Sagger or Raad ATGM’s.(12)

However, since the Ethiopian invasion, Iran has stepped off its direct support for armed groups. After the ICU was thrown from power in December of 2006, the organization split into two camps, those seeking, and those opposed to reconciliation with the TFG. Iran is attempting to hedge its bets between the two organizations by offering to mediate between the two factions. (13) However one should not rule out them maintaining low-level ties with the now-dominant militia group, Al-Shabab. This was potential was brought up in the Fall of 2008 when pirates seized an Iranian cargo ship, a ship supposedly carrying “minerals and industrial products”. However the pirates then came down with a mysterious illness that led people to believe the ship was carrying chemical weapons.(14) Personally I am doubtful that this is the damning evidence everyone was looking for about Iranian support for Al-Shabab. This is because I doubt Iran would be so foolish to supply chemical weapons to their proxy, a weapon that would have immense international blowback if ever discovered, second is that the symptoms of the mystery illness seem easily explained away by the declared load of toxic industrial chemicals. One more possible indication of support is the uniform worn by many members of Al-Shabab, a camouflage vest, a three-color affair I have seen only one place else in the world, being worn by Basij trainees. While seemingly minor, I would not disregard the potential implications.

One more connection of note is the use of Somalia as a port-of harbour for the arms smuggling operations into the Palestinian territories and to Hamas. This has been suggested by Elliott Abrams in an interview with the Council for Foreign Relations when describing the path of weapons after being offloaded from Iranian ships “…it seems that they hit land in places like Yemen or Somalia or, I guess, Eritrea to some extent, places like that…”(15) I find this statement doubtful for a couple of reasons. First is the manner in which he suggested it, it sounds almost flippant, like he was simply reeling of names of countries on the horn of Africa. Second is the illogical nature of the route, instead of just going to Sudan where the weapons could be loaded directly onto a convoy to Egypt, Abrams suggests it is offloaded into the middle of a warzone, then smuggled either through Djibouti or Ethiopia, both primary US allies in the region, and the former with a large US base in it. The plan is needlessly complicated and fraught with potential for danger. That being said there is the potential that because we are focused on the obvious path we ignore the seemingly more difficult ones.
The final issue in the Iran-Somalia relationship can be traced back to the 2006 shipments to the ICU, that is, the exchange of arms for Somali uranium reserves. All reports about this can be traced back to the UN report I referenced earlier. It says, and I quote, “At the time of the writing of the present report, there were two Iranians in
Dhusamareeb engaged in matters linked to uranium in exchange for arms for ICU.”(16) That is all, it is never qualified beyond that, however, as with all news stories it has been reproduced and extended far beyond the two lines in the original report. As with the arms-smuggling allegations, I am doubtful about the veracity of this story. First off is the infrastructure required to mine the uranium, Somalia simply doesn’t have it and a massive Iranian influx of engineers and heavy mining equipment is bound to be noticed by either the Somalis themselves, the Ethiopians who no doubt still have their eye on their eastern neighbour since their withdrawal, or by the litany of US intelligence assets focused on the area due to fears of a resurgent Al Qaeda. Second is the illogic of it, Somalia doesn’t have much uranium, at best, roughly 9,550 tonnes (17) Whereas Iranian reserves are estimated to be in the 20,000-30,00 tonnes range. (18) In the end, the proof that Iran is seeking uranium in Somalia is very slim, at best and should be taken as such.

(1) “Somali Between Jihad and Restoration” By: Paul Shay. Transaction Publishers. 2008 P. 61
(2) ibd Paul Shay, P.61
(3) “Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America” by: Yosseg Bodansky. Prima Lifestyles. 2001. P. 67
(4) ibd Paul Shay, P. 61
(5) ibd Paul Shay, P. 62
(6) ibd Yosseg Bodansky, P.71-72
(7) ibd Paul Shay, P. 62
(8) “Ships to Transport Supplies for Somali Militia” Defence Intelligence Agency. No Date specified, most likely 1997. http://fas.org/asmp/resources/FOIA/DIASomaliaApril97Shipsto.pdf
(9) “Somali Clan Militia Receives Support from Iran”. Defence Intelligence Agency. 1995 http://fas.org/asmp/resources/FOIA/DIASomaliaApril97Somaliclan.pdf
(10) “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council resolution 1676 (2006)” United Nations Security Council. November 22nd 2006
(11) ibd UNSC
(12) ibd UNSC
(13) “Puntland, Somalia Clash South of Galkayo; Iran’s Hand” The Long War Journal. November 12th 2006 http://www.lo\ngwarjournal.org/archives/2006/11/puntland_somalia_cla.php
(14) “Iran Ready to Mediate in Somalia”. Press TV. July 15th 2008 http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=63823&sectionid=351020101
(15) “Mystery Surrounds Hijacked Iranian Ship”. The Long War Journal. September 22nd 2008 http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2008/09/mystery_surrounds_hi.php
(16) Quoted in: “More on the Iran-Somalia-Gaza Weapons Route” By: Jim Lobe. Lobelog. March 2nd 2009. http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/?p=233
(17) ibd UNSC
(18) “Uranium Mine Ownership – Africa” WISE Uranium Project Oct 30th 2009 http://www.wise-uranium.org/uoafr.html#SO
(19) “Uranium Mines” Global Security No Date http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/iran/mines.htm

Iran's Military Relationship With Sudan

Iran's Military Relationship With Sudan

Iran's relationship with Sudan is one of its largest success stories in terms of its foreign relations campaigns. Sudan is a Sunni-Arab state that was allied with the west, then through an Islamic revolution became an Islamic theocracy allied with Iran and now serves as a solid stepping stone for Iran's military cooperation with the African continent.

The military relationship between Khartoum and Tehran can be traced back to 1985 revolution against the pro-western Jaafar Nimeiry and the 1989 coup that brought Omar al-Bashir to power, Tehran, desperate to gain allies in the Arab world during their war with Iraq, supported the fledgling Islamic government through investing in oil infrastructure and providing small arms, and by some accounts, heavy artillery and tanks to the army (1) During the same time period, Iran began financing the first of many Chinese arms sales to Sudan, in 1991, China delivered $300 million worth of weapons, including two helicopters, a hundred 1,000 lb bombs, as well as ammunition for small arms.(2)This was followed in 1991 by a visit from then-Iranian-president Rafsanjani who pledged $17 million in financial aid as well as funding the purchase of $300 million worth of Chinese arms.(3) Also included in this was a deal for an unspecified number of small arms including the HK G3 assault rifle, medium range artillery, most likely the 122 mm towed D30, or 122 mm MLRS, YMIII anti-tank mines and the 60 mm Fateh and 82 mm HM15 mortar's. (4)

It was at this point that the assistance shifted from purely material to training as well as ideological. In 1992, upwards of 2,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) advisor's went to Sudan in order to train the Sudanese Popular Defence Force (PDF). In fact, the entire organization and doctrine of the PDF is based around the idea of popular mobilization that defined the IRGC at the time. (5) (6) Another use of the IRGC personnel in Sudan was to train Hezbollah operatives and set up the infrastructure that would be used by other Islamic terror organizations. It was also at this time that there was dialogue between Al Qaeda and Iran on the matter of putting aside ideological differences and focusing on the greater enemy, the US and Israel, these conferences were mediated by Hasan al-Turabi, an extremist in the employ of the Sudanese government at the time. The result of this temporary cease-fire and the allowance of Al Qaeda to use Pasdaran training camps in Sudan.(7) However after the expulsion of Al Qaeda elements from Sudan, this cooperation appears to have been ceased.

The next major development was in 1993 when Iran financed the purchase of 20 Chinese attack aircraft, most likely the Nanchang A-5. In return for this deal, Sudan granted the Iranian navy full use of its facilities, a deal that would become a major factor in future Iranian dealings in the region. (8)
Also in 1993, it was reported that Sudan was flying ex-Iraqi Mig-23's that had been captured by Iran as they fled destruction in 1991 during the first Gulf War. This is entirely feasible as they have never entered Iranian service and have always been assumed to be in storage gathering dust, that being said the source is a Sudanese opposition leader and as such, the information should be taken with a grain of salt. (9)

Following up in 1995 a delegation from Tehran assessed the growing needs of the Sudanese military and delivered large amounts of heavy artillery, armoured cars and radar, with the countries signing a mutual agreement a year later to boost defence. (10) In Early 1997, following the escalation of civil war that had ravaged Sudan, Tehran began massive airlift operations to Khartoum, supplying them with food, medicine and weapons as well as training Sudanese officers in Iran. Meanwhile the IRGC advisor's, now numbering around 400, participated in massive logistical and infrastructure projects, both military and non-military. (11)

However, following the election of the moderate Khatami in 1997, military assistance to Sudan tapered off, largely indicative of the overall softening of Iran's foreign policy. That being said, while there was no large 'glossy' deals, there was a fairly constant rise in in the low-level export of small-arms and ammunition In 1999, the level was at about roughly $1 million worth, then rose to roughly $3 million in 2000, then roughly $5 million in 2002, and then spikes massively to $15.8 million in 2003 and then decreased to $1.2 million in 2004. At this time, China largely took over most of the near-monopoly Iran had previously had on small arms sales to Sudan, providing more then $20 million worth in 2005.(12) Small arms experienced a resurgence, in 2003 and 2004, respectively, we saw 15,800,514 and 1,242,676 units of small arms and related parts being exported to Sudan, however following the power turnover to Ahmadinejad in 2005, this dropped to 452,069 units, and further decreased to 183,247 in 2006, though it slightly rose to 817,530 in 2007. (13)

Then in 2004 we saw the first major transfer of equipment to Sudan since the mid-90's. Sudan purchased $7,799,146 worth of "tanks and other armored fighting vehicles". It is most likely that these are the Safir-74/T-72Z tanks. Iran could either be exporting the tank's directly from their stocks made from captured Iraqi armor, or they could be upgrading Sudans current stock of T-54/55's and Type-69's.(14) In Sudan, it goes by the name 'Al-Zubair 1'. Also included in the purchase is the Rakhsh APC, first seen in 2005 patrolling the streets of Khartoum during protests surrounding the death of rebel leader John Garang. (15)

Here is a picture of a Safir-74/T-72Z taken from a video of a military parade as well as the Rakhsh APC's.




The second major transfer of armor came in 2006 when Sudan purchased a number of Boragh AFV's, which goes by the domestic name of Khatim-1 (16) Although it hasn't yet been seen in service.

In 2008, several important developments took place. First was the conclusion of bilateral talks in March, first started in 2007, surrounding the establishment of military cooperation. The agreement was focused on the issue of evading sanctions, problems that plague both countries, through the establishment of various domestic industries. (17) The deal had eight specific points, 1) A shift by Sudan from Chinese and Russian made equipment, to Iranian, 2) A 50% discount on Iranian arms sold to Sudan, 3) The establishment of factories in Sudan for the production of Iranian weapons. I assume this would be an extension of Diomil rather then a license sold to Sudan, 4) Mutual defence pact, 5) An Exchange of delegations of each sides respective army, navy and air force, 6) The construction and exploitation of oil-fields, hydroelectric facilities, ports and other infrastructure. (18) However I should mention, the source for the specifics of the deal is Debka File, an extremely sketchy newspaper, so I would advise everyone to read it with a very large grain of salt. Next was the claim that rebels shot down an an Ababil UAV. However i'm dubious about this because there is no other reports of Iranian UAV's in Sudan, in addition to that it was reported that there was Chinese lettering on the side of the UAV, an observation corroborated by the fact that Sudan is known to operate several Chinese UAV's. (19) (20)

Finally, in 2009 we saw a major development that highlighted the special relationship that exists between Iran and Sudan, it was the Israeli strike on the arms shipments traveling through Sudan to the Palestinian territories. According to analysts at Stratfor, the path of arms involves selling the arms legally, or at least openly given the status of the embargo, which are then purchased by Hezbollah agents who move the arms across the Egyptian border using Bedouin smugglers then move them into Gaza via the tunnels that are so ubiquitous these days.(21) The attack in question were actually a series of three attacks taking place, two attacks near the end of January, and one in February. They consisted of air strikes, some say using UAV's, on truck convoys traveling through the eastern Sudanese desert. (22)

Overall, Sudan is one of Iran's chief importers of weapons. What follows is a non-comprehensive list of Iranian weapon systems used, as advertised by Sudan’s main defense companies, the Military Industry Corporation (MIC), followed by their domestic name.

Small Arms
Sayyed 5.56 Assault Rifle (Terab)
G3 Assault Rifle (Dinar)
MP-5 SMG (Tihraga)
MG-3 Machinegun (Karar)

Artillery
D-30 Towed Gun (Khalifa)
122 mm MLRS
107 mm MLRS
Shahin

Mortar
60 mm (Nimar)
82 mm (Aboud)
120 mm (Ahmd)

Anti-Tank Weapons
RPG-7 (Sinar)
SPG-9(Soba)
YM-III AT Mine

Armored Fighting Vehicles
Safir-74/T-72Z Tank (al-Zubair 1)
Boragh APC (al-Khatim 1)
Rakhsh APC (Amir)

In addition to this, Iran has provided up until recently, large amounts of ammunition and munitions for the weapons systems. It should also be noted that for some of the non-Iranian only weapons such as the D-30 and 122 mm rockets, the Iranians are not the lone supplier, sharing the position with nations such as China.

(1) "A New Alliance For Terror? The US Eyes Growing Ties Between Iran and Sudan" Newsweek February 24th 1992 http://www.newsweek.com/id/125403/page/1
(2) "Arms Oil and Darfur" Sudan Issue Brief. No. 6 April 2007. http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/files/portal/spotlight/sudan/Sudan_pdf/SIB%207%20Arms.pdf
(3)“A Deadly Love Triangle: Why Iran and Hamas Adore Darfur’s Genocidal Dictator,” Weekly Standard Online. August 6, 2008. http://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/280/a-deadly-love-triangle
(4)"Skirting the Law: Sudan’s Post-CPA Arms Flows" Small Arms Survey. September 2009. P. 27-28
(5) ibd Weekly Standard Online, 2008
(6) ibd Small Arms Survey, 2009
(7) "Islamism, Jihadism and Terrorism in Sudan". Ronald Sandee. Dutch MoD. No date. http://www.aei.org/docLib/20040809_SANDEEremarks.pdf
(8) "Sudan-Government" Arabic-German Counseling March 21st 2001 http://www.arab.de/arabinfo/sudan-government.htm
(9) "Sudan Using Iraqi Planes" The Independent. January 27th 1993. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/sudan-using-iraqi-planes-1481034.html
(10) ibd Weekly Standard Online, 2008
(11) "Sudan: An Expanding Civil War With an Iran Connection". The New York Times April 9th 1997 http://www.nytimes.com/1997/04/09/opinion/09iht-edamir.t.html
(12) ibd Sudan Issues Brief, 2007
(13) ibd Small Arms Survey, 2009
(14) "Arms Sales to Sudan 2004-2006" Human Rights First. No Date. http://www.stoparmstosudan.org/pages.asp?id=36#iran
(15) ibd Small Arms Survey, 2009
(16) ibd Human Rights First
(17) "Sudan, Iran Sign Military Cooperation Agreement" Sudan Tribune. March 8th 2008 http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article26294
(18) “Iran Gains African Foothold up to Chad Through Pacts with Sudan” Debka File May 31st 2008 http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=1343 (19)"Iran Violating Arms Embargo on Sudan: Report" Sudan Tribune. September 5th 2008 http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article28514
(20) "Darfur Rebels Claim Downing of Sudan Drone" Military Photos. August 28th 2008 http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?t=140764
(21) "Alleged Israeli Attack Draws Attention to Sudan's Iran Ties" Payvand Iran News April 2nd 2009 http://www.payvand.com/news/09/apr/1017.html
(22) "Report: Israel Carried out 3 Attacks on Sudan Arms Smugglers" Haaretz March 28th 2009 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1074457.html (23) Military Industry Corporation http://mic.sd/english/products.htm


Iran to Dispatch New Fleet to Gulf of Aden

Iran To Dispatch New Fleet to Gulf of Aden
Source: Fars News

In an unsuprising move, Iran announced it's intentions to send it's 7th fleet to the Gulf of Aden near Somalia to participate in anti-piracy operations and protect maritime traffic. The force will consist of the Alvand-class Sabalan frigate as well as the Khark resupply ship. This follows up a near constant presence in the Gulf of Aden since the summer of 2009.

These operations prove that Iran is capable of sustaining long blue-water operations, even if they're just beginning. More over though, it indicates a move toward more power-projection capabilities, especially when viewed in light of the new Jamaran frigate and the preparations to order more. Iran is eager to be viewed as one of the worlds "big boys" and by using it's military in such a manner, it is forcing the world to take it seriously, though using the navy in this manner is just one facet of that strategy.

The actual tactical experience gained from these operations shouldn't be discounted as well, it gives them valuable real world experience that while remaining in a relatively risk-free environment.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Iran's Mosaic Doctrine - An Unrestricted Army

Iran's Mosaic Doctrine - An Unrestricted Army

For Iran, friction between its neighbors, the US and Israel have created a situation ripe for conflict. But desperately outmatched in conventional terms, Iran has raced to come up with a solution to offset this disparity. This comes in the shape of what has been come to be termed as the "Mosaic Doctrine". The Mosaic Doctrine is at it's heart a reorganization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) into an army optimized for fighting net-warfare, small, agile fighting units that operate autonomously toward overall objectives rather then wars of maneuver fought by divisions and brigades. It also encompasses the transition to the idea of fighting a conventional war unconventionally. These reforms are also unique as it sets itself as one of the first cases of nation-states codifying "unrestricted warfare" as a primary doctrine rather then adopting asymmetric warfare as an accident as with many of the insurgencies across the world.


This doctrinal shift within the Iranian military can be seen as a response to the threat is faces from its enemies, specifically from the US or Israel. Most visible is the clashes with the West over their domestic nuclear program. An Israeli or US strike on Iranian nuclear infrastructure remains the most likely military threat to Iran in the foreseeable future. With the Israelis being far more likely to initiate conflict then the US due to the perceived existential threat from the Iranian nuclear program. The Israeli Air Force is heads and tails above anything the region has to offer against it, while the IRIAF does the best they can with what they have, it is not up to the task of being reliably counted on to intercept an IAF strike package. Any IAF attack would consist of F-16I and F-15I fighters which carry the best weapons and electronics available. (Cordesman, 2009) The IRIAF on the other hand is under armed in comparison; the only aircraft capable of posing a threat is the F-14 which is still outmatched in terms of electronic warfare and air-to-air capability. Air defense infrastructure is the same, the coverage is sparse at best, and the radar and SAM combos that do exist are antiquated and could easily be bypassed.


The reason the nuclear program is of such importance is that it is emblematic of Iran’s larger ambitions to become a major world player; it seeks legitimacy by gaining access to an exclusive club. The move is as much emblematic as it is technologically valuable.


There is also the risk that this conflict wouldn't be a simple quick battle over the fate of Iran's nuclear facility, but would escalate into a regional conflict fighting over battlegrounds in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as fighting over the worlds oil artery, the Persian Gulf, even drawing in Gulf Arab states or spreading into border skirmishes with US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The same technical inferiority that plagues its inability to protect against an air strike conventionally also affects its control of the Persian Gulf, the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) is equally antiquated, maintaining a few small frigates, patrol boats and submarines. Essentially nothing compared to a USN carrier battle group, or even against it's GCC neighbors. Thus, as the Israeli and US threats of a strike has escalated, so to has a demand on the part of the Iranians to form a model to deter an attack, or to mitigate its effectiveness.


The question then is, how can Iran form a credible defense in face of overwhelming military inferiority. The answer lies in The Mosaic Doctrine, a complete reorganization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and its associated reforms. The program was initiated by General Mohammad Ali Jafari when he assumed role of chief commander of the IRGC in 2007. The reforms center around a reorganization of the IRGC, transformed from a conventional military with full-sized divisions, and brigades located in various bases throughout the country, to a total network with 31 regional “corps”, 30 per province with an extra one in Tehran, each with regional autonomy, each is then subdivided further into municipalities and towns, in the words of Fariborz Haghshenass of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy: …it is creating a decentralized command structure that will allow for more autonomous district and sector operations. Small, autonomous, mobile, and agile combat units form the basic building block of this new “mosaic” defense strategy. (Haghshenass, 2008) The obvious advantage to this organization is that it allows the body to survive conventional surgical strikes that would otherwise decapitate a hierarchical organization. As Haghshenass said, the very nature of these corps are to provide maximum agility and initiative to each unit. The lesson here ostensibly comes from Hezbollah's success with it in the 2006 war. This comparison draws from the close historical cooperation between the IRGC and Hezbollah. Particularly during the 2006 war. It was the IRGC operatives that were advising the use of Hezbollah's most deadly weaponry such as UAV's and anti-ship missiles. (Cordesman, 2008) These units place a high premium on agility and speed within small units who carry impressive firepower through weapons like anti-tank missiles and mines as well as being extremely technically proficient carrying advanced weaponry usually reserved for 1st world armies.


While the reorganization itself is impressive, alone it would be of trifle importance for the same reason a gun is only as accurate as the person shooting it. For Iran, the strategy behind it being as every bit refined as the organization itself. The drive to adopt asymmetric warfare as their central principle was again led primarily by Gen. Jafari. He declared, soon after being appointed head of the Revolutionary Guards: Given the enemy's numerical or technological superiority, the IRGC would use asymmetrical warfare capabilities, such as those used by Hezbollah in its 2006 war with Israel in Lebanon. Iranian strategy would also reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. (Sahimi, 2010) This strategy was aimed at using often low tech means to defeat an enemies superior technology while using economic and social warfare to win the political war, even if the military battle remains winnable. This was a strategy of what has been come to be known as 'unrestricted warfare'. The notion of unrestricted warfare was officially coined in a 1999 book by two senior Chinese Colonels, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. While it unknown whether Jafari actually read the book, it is clear that the ideas at least involved in parallel. The book presented a vision of the future of war that read as a manual for small, otherwise-weak actors to defeat larger and more powerful enemies by expanding warfare beyond the traditional realm, by using full spectrum warfare. Iran is a prime case study of this concept in action; they have devised strategies based on nullifying opponent’s high-technology advantages while exerting counter-pressure through military, political, economic and other “non-combat military operations”. Unrestricted warfare for Iran focuses around the core concept that in order to win the war, they won’t have to win the battles, but rather, they will only have to win the political representations the conflict creates. To accomplish this, they are focusing on a few critical aspects. First is the denial of enemy objectives, because after all, it doesn’t matter if you win so long as the enemy can’t either. This has resulted in heavy investment in defensive technology, both passive and active, such as hardened shelters, SAM’s, and naval mines. This is a true example of 'classic' unrestricted warfare, perfectly embodying the principle that one should always present a foil to the enemies strongest side, in this case, air supremacy, while using your other forces, in this case, ballistic missiles, to strike your enemies flanks. Second is the need to create coercive pressure upon the enemy, and this has manifested itself in all kinds of manners, such as the threat of sinking US aircraft carriers, disrupting oil supplies, or using missiles to strike critical military targets.


How does the IRGC measure up on their attempt to integrate the Chinese advice into their military. Luckily for us, the criteria is relatively straightforward, the first is the effective use of technology. This is particularly interesting given that Iran's foes, the US and Israel, are two of the most militarily advanced nations on earth, it seems foolish to think Iran could beat them at their own game.

And one would be correct, however the key here lies not in the expectation that Iran would develop 5th generation fighters or nuclear powered submarines, but rather that they would be able to successfully negate the advantages of the US or Israel. This is the result of successful integration of different weapons systems, both low and high tech to negate the opponents technical advantage. Iran not only does this, but also integrates another important theory from Unrestricted warfare, they do this in such a way as to present a foil to their enemies strengths, while striking at their weaknesses. (Liang and Xiangsui, 1999) No where is shown as perfectly in the field of air space. The US and Israel might be more advanced in every other realm, but it is truly the Air Force that they shine in, entire doctrines being framed around the total air supremacy relying on air support to win the war, as such billions of dollars are invested in platforms such as the F-22 or the F-15. Iran's response has been to seek better and better radar and SAM systems in recent years with rumors abounding concerning the acquisition of the S-300 SAM system from Russia, or the HQ-9 from China as well as a litany of internal rumors concerning domestic air defense projects. Another strategy of beating air power lies in denial of objectives, because, it doesn't matter if you win, so long as your enemy cant either. This takes the form of passive defenses such as hardening critical targets such as the ballistic missile storage bases located near Khorromabad and Kermanshah, both located in valleys between steep mountains, and buried in concrete and dirt, strategically placed to defeat cruise missile and aerial bombardment. (Wright, 2009) This is an extremely low-tech solution that is really nothing more then a glorified bunker, but has the power to defeat the Israelis primary strategy. Anti-ship missiles and mines are another good example, unable to afford the carrier battle groups of the United States Navy, Iran has instead chosen to invest in some of the worlds most advanced AShM's as well as incredibly cheap naval mines that have the power to deny the free use of Persian Gulf waterways. These are but a few of many examples existing within the IRGC including the use of satellite phones, anti-tank missiles, fiber optics, and ballistic missiles.


Another piece of advice the Iran seems to have heeded is that war no longer exists purely in the military realm, but has now spread into every facet of society, from economic to social. Iran's believes that the US and Israel are uniquely vulnerable to coercion, whether it be actual violence in a shooting war, or through economic concerns. In the social sphere their strategy rests on exploiting our fear of another long, drawn out war, seemingly without end where we are being bled of personnel and equipment, to prevent escalation of the war, keeping it on their terms allowing them to dictate the terms of the intensity of the war. Economically, they control an even more powerful info-weapon, the threat of closing the Straits of Hormuz. The Persian Gulf region provides the world with a substantial portion of their petrochemical needs and is home to their largest producers. Given the worlds insatiable thirst for oil, they would be averse to taking any action that could risk that supply. It would also prevent the GCC from entering on the side of the US, for fear of losing the revenue they are wholly dependent on. This battleground also proves the importance of the info-weapon to Iran's battle strategy. Realistically, they are not betting their strategy on their ability to actually starve the US of oil for its army, this is a rather unrealistic option, reserves and rationing can stretch out supplies longer then Iran could close the Gulf. What Iran is really betting on is the fear that they are able to close it, this is really the beautiful part of their strategy, they don't even have to do anything, there just has to be fear of it, if they even so much as injured a tanker, insurance rates would skyrocket, causing panic in a very fragile global economic state. (Stratfor, 2009)



While any type of aerial or naval combat in any hypothetical battle between Iran and any adversaries. Land battles are not out of the question, notice i said land battles, not wars. The latter is a near impossibility, with two of its potential enemies, Israel and the GCC, lacking land borders with Iran and the US overstretched with two wars already and a populace that would no sooner tolerate an invasion of Iran then they would spontaneously sprout wings and fly. That being said, in a war with Iran, one would be hard pressed to imagine a situation where there weren't cross-border raids and skirmishes between Iran and US forces in Afghanistan or Iraq. As such, the IRGC has built its ground forces as a foil to this threat. For instance, we see the wide-spread adoption of small independent garrisons in any population center, consistent with the Mosaic Doctrines principle of disaggregated command and control. Up until very recently these were Basij militia, but since late-2009 they have been integrated directly into the IRGC network. (PressTV, 2009) While there isn't as much written about these units as the more famous naval warfare, we can still infer quite a lot from the small amount of information available, mostly what can be gleaned from media coverage of events like wargames, as well as military parades. What we see during these events and parades are units that have high mobility, using vehicles like motor bikes, light cars and para-gliders, but still heavily armed, carrying a wide array of anti-tank rockets, mines, and surface-to-air missiles, operating in self-contained units.


The above concepts all deal with what would happen in a shooting war with Iran and the possibilities for Iran to use asymmetric warfare to their advantage. But this perspective still approaches it from the basic idea that war is still restricted to a war between nations, that, even if Iran is able to utilize economic warfare or coercion, it still remains within the realm of a war. While this is absolutely true and we shouldn't diminish this threat, another facet exists, the strategic posturing going on right now. It is my opinion that Iran’s greatest asymmetrical weapon is not anything that shoots or that blows up, but rather the threat itself from these weapons are in-and-of-themselves the most dangerous weapon. The constant veiled threats, announcements of weapons productions as well as the wargames are orchestrated and choreographed so well that it is impossible for them to be the ravings of madmen that they occasionally look to be on the surface. Instead, they are part of a carefully orchestrated plan to tell their enemies that “we might not be able to stop your attacks, but we can make you regret it”, hoping to deter them from ever having to take that chance because at the end of the day, no matter how good Iran’s asymmetric battle strategy is, they would still suffer heavily in the event of any conflict, risking economic collapse, loss of a nuclear program and destruction of the military they have painstakingly building for the past 20 years. Because of this, Iran’s most powerful weapon is it’s power of deterrence. Because, after all, it's often better to prevent a war then to win one.


One crucial aspect to the deterrence strategy is the Iranians stock of missiles and artillery rockets, ranging from the 355 mm unguided Nazeat-6 rocket up to the multi-stage Sejil ballistic missile. These are strategic weapons in the truest sense of the word, their accuracy means they cannot be used for precise strikes and their inefficiency means they can't be used willy-nilly against battlefield targets (for comparison, the F-4E fighter-bomber used by the IRIAF can carry tens of times more explosives then one rocket). However, they do have a strategic power in the sense that they allow Iran to have an air force without actually having one. They give Iran the power to inflict devastating blows against strategic military targets like bases and airfield both in Israel and against US assets that would otherwise be out of reach, acting dissuading any would be attackers. But again, the targets won't just be military, there are fears that Iran would strike downtown Tel Aviv or Saudi oil fields. Nuclear deterrence also plays a large role, but the possibility of it, or lack thereof is beyond the scope of this paper, and it will suffice to say that it doesn't play a large active role as of now, however this will be very likely to change within the next few years depending on how events play out. The threats of their use by Iranian leaders are almost comedic having the air of the stereotypical mobster shaking someone down for protection money: 'Would you look at that, our missiles have a 2,000 km range, and that just happens to be how far Israel is from us, what a coincidence'.



Like deterrence, the next logical jump takes us away from the battlefield with Iran to a number of proxy actors. Groups like Hezbollah, and the Mahdi army. In fact, this highlights that the war is going on as we speak as Iran seeks to undermine our position within the region. It has been said that there has been no greater victor in the US war with Iraq then Iran, this still holds true as Iran is able to gain the cooperation of former enemies, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, to build coalitions against regional enemies. A war the US is definitely losing in Iraq, and while Iran isn't winning in Afghanistan, neither is the US, and for Iran, thats better then pre-2001. (Kagan, 2007) Current activities aside, in the event of a war with Iran, these entities would not sit idly by, while it is important to note that groups like Hezbollah and the Mahdi army are not directly controlled by Iran, and at the heart of it only have their interests at stake, it would be unlikely that they would sit by and idly watch as their greatest enemies (Israel and the US respectively) attack their greatest ally.


Wrapping things up i'd like to emphasize one point. Namely, these are all guesses, 50% of which are probably wrong. This too is in Iran's strategy, the thick fog of disinformation that surrounds the IRGC and the rest of the Iranian armed forces is by ever means a deliberate attempt to impede their enemies decision making. While it might seem foolish to us to make grandiose statements every other week about the new production of a stealth drone, or a new submarine, or another round of war games, they create doubt and uncertainty, sure we can pass off the idea of a stealth bomber as lies, but what about a smaller stealth drone or a new class of tank? The leaders of the military such as Gen. Jafari or his predecessor Gen. Safavi who is now advisor to Supreme Leader Khamenei are simply too smart to be making these decisions without knowing what they're doing. So whenever we hear about how the IRGC Navy are conducting a new round of war games practicing infiltrating tactics we must remember that not only to these war games help train in the use of unrestricted warfare, but even the announcement itself serves a very concrete political purpose.


Citations

-Arasli, J. (2007). Obsolete weapons, unconventional tactics, and martyrdom zeal: how Iran would apply its asymmetric naval warfare doctrine in a future conflict. GEORGE C. MARSHALL EUROPEAN CENTER FOR SECURITY STUDIES, 10.

-Cordesman, A. (2009). Iran as a nuclear weapons power. Burke Chair in Strategy Reports.

-Cordesman, A. (2008). Security Challenges and Threats in the gulf : A Net Assessment. Burke Chair in Strategy Reports. Burke Chair in Strategy Reports.

-Sahimi, M. . (2010, January 21). A Hardliner's hardliner. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/01/a-hardliners-hardliner.html

-Interview with Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari. (2008, January 26th). Qatar. Al Jazeera.

-Wright, G. (2009, October 9th). Image analysis - Kermanshah missile storage. Retrieved from http://thearkenstone.blogspot.com/2009/10/image-analysis-kermanshah-missile.html

-Haghshenass, F. . (2008). Irans asymmetric naval warfare. Policy Focus, 87.Cordesman, A. (2008). The Lessons of the Israeli-Lebanon War. Burke Chair in Strategy Reports.

-Iran and the strait of hormuz: part 1 a strategy of deterrence. (2009). Stratfor Special Series.

-Irgc changes aimed at confronting new threats . (2009, February 18). Retrieved from http://www.presstv.ir/Detail.aspx?id=86059&sectionid=351020101

-Kagan, K. (2007, August 20). Iran’s proxy war against the united states and the iraqi government. The Weekly Standard.

-Liang, Q., & Xiangsui, W. (199). Unrestricted warfare. Beijing: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House.

-Also, it would be important to note the vast litany of image galleries i have viewed in the past years that show the Iranian military on parade and at war games, one of the few reliable first-hand sources available.

IRGC Undertakes Asymmetric Naval Wargames

IRGC Undertakes Asymmetric Naval Wargames

Source: Fars News

While details are still extremely slim, the IRGCN (it is unclear whether they were acting in conjunction with other coastal elements) recently staged a war game focusing on the use of asymmetric tactics against naval targets, auspiciously the USN and GCC countries. This announcement isn't that surprising any more, the general consensus of experts is that any war with Iran won't involve fields of armor or dogfights between equal air forces, but rather, a battle to win the narrative of the conflict and in turn, win the political battle featuring asymmetric tactics.

What is interesting however is a couple of things. First is the scale of these wargames. I've always been a bit suspicious about the degree of institutionalization of the theory of asymmetric warfare, whether it could just be a bluff to deter enemies such as the US (which in turn could be an interesting kind of asymmetric warfare in-and-of-itself). However moves like this indicate that it's not a bluff, that there are resilient nodes trained in this type of network-warfare who routinely practice and make up a significant portion of the armed forces.

The second point is the night fighting capability of the IRGCN. The general trend throughout recent history has been that night-fighting has been a realm of unquestionable dominance for western powers, especially in these conflicts that base themselves around COIN type dynamics, because of the superior technology such as FLIR as well as the developed tactics to use these weapons. However when Iran conducts wargames that specifically take place at night, it indicates that the tables might be leveling and that the IRGC now maintains the capability to operate at night. Although it would be important to note that while the US still has dominance in this realm, their opponents are not altogether toothless now.

Lastly, one tactic that was mentioned was the practicing of infiltration tactics. This is very important because it tells us that attacks on US assets at ports within GCC countries are very likely a part of the battle doctrine of the IRGC. While it generally was assumed that this was a likely possibility, it was never confirmed. This is important because it attacks the USN at their weakest, they're in port, unable to maneuver and use their defensive weapons because of the crowded nature of the ports.


Mao said that an insurgency is like a fish within a sea, no where is this more literally the case then with the asymmetric doctrine of the IRGCN.Link