Monday, December 8, 2014

Defense Expenditures in Iran's 1394 Budget

More so than other translations, the highly technical nature the budget reports means that the relative simplicity of the following tables hides potential difficulties in not just translating Persian to English, but financial-speak to layman-speak.

At a Glance:
- High disparity between the Army and IRGC's funding. Even ignoring the one-time allocation to the IRGC's Khatem al-Anbiya organization (see below), IRGC receives a billion more than the Army.

Ministry of Defense and Armed-Forces Logistics:
- Large quantity of ministry's funding earmarked for the ambiguously titled "strengthening/promoting defense".
- At first glance, industrial defense base (IEI, HESA, AIO) will recieve a paltry sum. However, since this is listed under capital assets, their actual funding may be buried elsewhere in the budget (e.g. "strengthening defense", or "maintaining defense industrial production").

Armed Forces General Staff:
- Not insignificant amount earmarked for development of naval infrastructure. Developments in the Oman fleet may correspond to the relatively new IRIN bases at Jask or Pasabandar, or their region-HQ at Konarak. Note that this funding is described as a capital asset.

- $1.8 m earmarked for Navy's expeditionary voyages, a relatively small sum in the grand scheme.
- Compare the $1.8 m allocated for all of the Army's border-security operations to the $185 m allocated for the IRGC's operations in the south-west. This makes clear who has the primary responsibility for internal security (which is entirely expected).
- $1.8 m for air-defense seems like a small sum given importance of IRIADF, again suggesting that funding may be buried elsewhere.


- $185 million for counter-insurgency (and general security) operations in Baluchistan (Shahid Shushtari Plan)
- $13 million for recruitment of Kurdish militias (Shahid Kazemi plan)
- One time allocation of $3.7 b for the Khatem al-Anbiya consturuction HQ (more than twice as much as the Army's entire budget, and a billion more than all the rest of the IRGC's budget) eludes apparent explanation. Major investment for something, but what?
Without the specific line-item 'plans' and the construction allocation, the IRGC's budget is much closer to the Army's.

Miscellaneous / Unsorted:
- Traditionally a hidden cost, ongoing social-security costs dwarf much of the 'normal' defense budget. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Fakour and Rasool Air-Defense Components

At the request of a reader, we now take a brief look at two different elements of Iran's integrated air defense system (IADS).

On May 25 2014, the Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Headquarters (aka IRIADF) unveiled two new systems that they reported would soon enter production. [1] These were:

1) The Fakour command-and-control (C2) system, which is responsible for gathering, fusing, and distributing tactical information within the IRIADF's sectors.
2) The Rasool communications system, which is responsible for linking the Matla ul-Fajr radars with other elements of the air-defense network.

The Fakour is employed as a command-post for fusing and distributing sensor information at the tactical level. This means gathering data from a range of sources, which is reported to include active sources such as military and civilian radars, passive ELINT such as emission-finders, and air-defense units such as SAM batteries. This data is fuzed to produce a unified picture of the battlefield that can be used to cue air and ground-based defenses onto target.

However, it is unclear if the Fakour is only responsible for assembling information and passing it on (this includes passing both sensor data from below, and commands from above), or whether it is also responsible for analyzing the resulting picture (i.e. deconflicting contradictory information and assigning targets). The use of “C2” terminology in the Fakour's name would suggest the latter, at least to some degree.

The answer to this question would be a major indicator of the IRIADF's flexibility, and thus its overall survivability. If the Fakour only gathered and passed along information, local IRIADF units could blinded by disrupting the upper levels of this hierarchy. This has generally been the Western experience against Soviet-designed IADSs. However, if the Fakour were equipped with the processing and communication power to maintain a relatively comprehensive picture on its own, these local units could retain much more of their effectiveness.

Based on descriptions of the Fakour's compatibility with the IRIADF's sector-operations-centers (SOC), it is assessed to moderate to high confidence that the Fakour will be deployed within SOCs. SOCs are believed to be synonymous with the IRIADF's geographic regions (e.g. northwest, west, southwest, south, southeast, east, northeast, central), with a number of air-defense groups under each ones command. It is possible that the Fakour will be utilized at the group level.
Fakour, operation section, interior

The Fakour system itself is composed of three elements, these include:

Operations section: Mounted on a large containerized trailer, this section is responsible for processing received information, and using it to plan and coordinate subordinate operations. The trailer contains at least seven computer workstations

Communications section: Mounted on a smaller containerized trailer, this section is responsible for the system's signal reception and transmission. This helps protect the operations section by allowing it to function without emitting. For intra-system communication, the different sections can be linked by fiber-optic or conventional cables, and for external communication this section is equipped with HF, VHF, UHF, AM/FM, and microwave radio, which can be used for audio and data transfer (at a reported rate of 32 mbit/s).
Fakour, communications section

Communications-relay section: This section is equipped with a microwave relay station mounted on a pickup truck, and is responsible for extending the range of the communication section's LOS data-transfer.

The Rasool is a communications node associated with Matla ul-Fajr family of acquisition radars. It can be used to integrate the radar with other elements of a local IADS, or with distant command centers in order to allow it to function as an independent early-warning radar.

The Matla ul-Fajr (MuF) family includes the MuF-1, and MuF-2, which are descended from the Soviet P-12/18. Both operate in the VHF-band, which has led them being described as counter-stealth radars. They are visually characterized by their distinctive Yagi antennas arranged in rows on a retractable mast mounted on a containerized trailer.

According to press reports: [2]

The MuF-1 is a 2D (range, azimuth) medium/long-range radar with a maximum range of 300 km, and altitude of 20 km. It is characterized by its 12 antennas arrayed in two rows of six.

The MuF-2 is a 3D (range, azimuth, height) long-range radar with a maximum range of 480 km. It is characterized by its 32 antennas arrayed in four rows of 8.

The Rasool appears to be organic to the MuF, though, depending on how the MuF is organized, may be used to link it with C2-hubs like the Fakour, or SAM batteries at specific air-defense sites.

Rasool communications shelter
The system is composed of two vehicles, a communications shelter, and a relay station. The relay station is the same as the one used with the Fakour, and consists of a microwave station mounted on a pickup truck (32 mbit/s capacity). The communications shelter is mounted on an Iveco 4x4, and is fitted with HF, VHF, UHF, and microwave radios, and associated encryption and recording hard/software. Linking the Rasool with the radar itself is via fiber-optic wiring.

An example of how the Rasool may be employed can be found at the Fordow fuel enrichment plant (FFEP), and the air-defense group assigned to protect it. Assets deployed for the facilities point defense are detailed here, and include the use of a MuF-1 as an acquisition/EW radar for two half-strength HAWK batteries, and a handful of gun batteries. Imagery from late-2012 onward show the radar supported by a small truck fitted with a mast-mounted transmitter, very likely the microwave radios employed by the Rasool. Also wired to the MuF is a larger containerized trailer, which may function as a C2-hub like the Fakour, which is itself linked to a smaller container with an unknown roof-mounted transmitter/receiver.

Footnotes / Works-Cited:
[1] A Look at the Newest Achievements in the Field of Air Defense. AJA. 06/01/2014.
[2] Which of the Iranian Eyes Exposed the Zionest Hermes? Mashregh News. 08/28/14

Further Reading:
Comments on Air Defense Systems. Stuart Slade. 1999

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Basij Organization - The Shahid Shushtari Operating Base

In the fifth part of the 'Basij Organization' series, we now turn to one of the so-called special categories of Basij: the Shahid Shushtari Operating Bases (SSOB) in Iran's restive south-east.
The first part in this series covers the Imam Hussein battalions.
The second part covers the Beit al-Moqdas battalions.
The third part covers the the Semnan province Basij.
The fourth part covers the Imam Ali battalions

Baluch Basij, pictured during the opening of a base in Qasr-e Qand

Origin and Development
External Organization
Internal Organization
Appendix: Shahid Shushtari
Footnotes / Works Cited

BG – Brigadier General
BG2 – Brigadier General, 2nd Class
Cmdr - Commander
Col. – Colonel
HQ – Headquarters
IRGC [-GF] – Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps [Ground Forces]
MG – Major General
SM [HQ] – Shahid Mamar [Headquarters]
SSOB – Shahid Shushtari Operating Base
S&B - Sistan va Baluchistan

Since 2012 these rural bases staffed by personnel from Sunni tribes have tried to assimilate the indigenous population into the state, increase oversight of tribal leadership, and project a kinder, gentler face to a population that had previously suffered under the security forces, and who are uniquely at risk to the appeal of transnational Salafism.

To this end, 60 SSOBs have been built in the remote ethnic-Baluch villages that dot the Kerman and Sistan va Baluchistan provinces. Parallel to the traditional province-based organization, these bases are organized under the supervision of the Shahid Mamar Operations HQ, which itself falls under the regional Qods HQ.

These bases are equivalent to small rural police-stations, providing a modest amount of law-and-order to areas with little existing state influence. More importantly, they also provide employment, and a friendly point of contact between the state and the population.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to gauge the success of this program. State officials are quick to speak of its success, but there are no ways to independently verify these claims. Driven by identity-based mobilization, anti-government attacks continue, and indeed have escalated since 2011 when Tehran was still enjoying a relative calm following the collapse of Jundallah. Similarly, Baluchistan remains one of the most underdeveloped regions in Iran, something that cannot be changed overnight. Yet, these attacks remain limited in scale and it is clear that – Tehran's fears of regime-change aside – they face no real existential threat from the insurgency.

Whether or not these bases will be effective in the long run, they represent a recognition of the challenges facing Tehran in these border areas. Namely, the program recognizes the need to address the legitimate material and identity-based grievances of disenfranchised populations, and that relying on brute force alone risks further inflaming the insurgency.

Origin and Development:
October 18th, 2014 marked the fifth anniversary of the 2009 suicide bombing that killed several high-ranking Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders in the Baluch town of Pishin. The bombing was carried out by insurgents from the now-defunct group Jundallah, which had its roots in the grievances and historical autonomy of the Sunni-Baluch population in Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Among those killed in the bombing was BG Nur-Ali Shushtari, who was the deputy commander of the IRGC's Ground Forces (IRGC-GF) and commander of their southeastern Qods HQ. Over his 30 year career, Shushtari was counted among the IRGC's core leadership, and developed a reputation as one of the nation's top counter-insurgents.

Following his assassination, Shushtari's legacy was redeployed by Tehran to articulate their counter-insurgency strategy in the south-east in an effort to counter the increasing perception among many Sunnis that Tehran is an imperial Shia power.

This narrative is characterized by:
a) pan-Islamic Sunni/Shia unity
b) the inclusion of indigenous tribal populations into the security forces
c) the use of infrastructure-development and social-assistance to alleviation material grievances
d) the necessary but not sufficient role of military security
e) persistent attempts by the West and Gulf Arab states to create ethno-sectarian divisions in order to topple the Islamic Republic

In particular, Shushtari's legacy has lent its name to one key aspect of Tehran's counter-insurgency strategy: the Shahid Shushtari operating base. The conceptual origin of the SSOB plan is rooted in descriptions of Shushtari's tactics and his highly personalized approach to internal security.

Shushtari during the war alongside his deputy and the current
commander of the IRGC's Qods HQ, Qadratollah Mansouri.
When the new commander of the Qods HQ – BG Qadratollah Mansouri –was appointed in 11/2009, the commander of the IRGC – MG Jafari – noted that he expected Mansouri to continue along Shushtari's path. [1] This shouldn't have been surprising since Mansouri fought alongside Shushtari in Kurdistan during the war, and served as his deputy during the 1990s, when the two were responsible for securing the country's northeast against spillover from the Afghan Civil War. When Mansouri laid out part of his vision for the southeast's security in late-2009, he invoked Shushtari's legacy, saying that the IRGC would work toward eradicating poverty in the region and that lasting security would not be provided with guns or tanks, but by handing the responsibility to the people and tribes of the region. [2]

In this regard, SSOBs are the means by which the Baluch population is to be assimilated into the security forces and the state. By 11/2011, initial preparations had been completed, and the first wave of recruits entered training shortly thereafter. [3] Reporting is incomplete, but the available documentation suggests the majority of bases were opened in late-2012, and 2013.

The reasons for the creation of SSOBs are consistent with the themes of the Shushtari-narrative outlined above, and include the promotion of:
1) State-tribe security cooperation
2) Shia/Sunni unity
3) Economic development
These three themes are unified by an underlying intent to alleviate the ethno-sectarian grievances that have historically sustained the Baluch insurgency.

Ex. of sectarian narrative employed by the Baluch insurgent group
Harakat Ansar Iran in context of wider region's balance of power
Although today's insurgents still draw from local grievances to mobilize support, they are more willing than their predecessors to draw on sectarian symbols to articulate their discontent. They evoke Tehran's role in Syria and Iraq to explain their own repression in the context of an imperial Shia power seeking to dominate the region's “true” Muslims. In Baluchistan, state neglect and kinetic-approaches to security have fueled charges of ethno-sectarian discrimination, couching local grievances in a transnational narrative.

Thus, creating an inclusive system for their own Sunni minorities is essential for Tehran to counter this perception. This, in turn, is key to checking a) the rise of an external Sunni coalition dedicated to balancing Tehran, and b) the attractive appeal of Salafi politics to Iran's own Sunni population.

The SSOB program addresses this by assimilating the Sunni population into the state and its security forces. Whenever a base is opened, attending officials inevitably describe them in explicit (non-)sectarian terms, citing the recruitment of Sunni personnel as evidence of the non-discriminatory nature of the Islamic Republic in face of efforts by Gulf Arab and Western states to exploit sectarian divisions. [4]

For instance, in 02/2013, civilian official(s) from the Sistan va Baluchistan province recognized the existence of legitimate grievances, saying:
“Referring to the recruitment of Baluch youth into the IRGC, the governor of Sistan va Baluchistan said: This positive action has strengthened lasting security in the province
Hatem Naroui stated: The recruitment of Sunni Baluch volunteers for the Basij may be 30 years late, but this positive action helps the province in many different ways.
The head of the security-council in Sistan va Baluchistan stated: Among the results of this good action is to strengthen lasting security and reduce anti-security actions against the Islamic Republic in the south-east border area of our country.
Naroui said: Now, different social-classes of Sunni and Shia of Sistan va Baluchistan, even from distant villages, believe in their border region and [unclear], because the Islamic Republic, unlike the previous regime, values them highly, especially the Baluch youth who are seen as useful in various social and political domains.
He added: Whereas many Baluch youth escaped military service in the past, now they have more love for their homeland's security with recruitment into the IRGC's Basij.” [5]
In pursuit of this overarching goal, the IRGC-GF's first objective is to directly promote security by handing responsibility to the indigenous population. This is accomplished by recruiting local personnel, and coopting tribal authority.

Although there is no way to independently confirm such his specific claims, Col. Morvarid, the then-commander of Shahid Mamar HQ, described the effects of this transfer during the opening of a SSOB in Qasr-e Qand County in 11/2012:
This base was formed “with the objective of helping to promote lasting security in the province… Various crimes and anti-security actions in Sistan va Baluchistan have declined 36%, much of which is thanks to the cooperation of the people, tribes, and nomads with the security and military apparatus.” [6]
A month later, during the opening of a SSOB in Nikshahr county, he said:
“The participation and cooperation by the population, tribal-leaders, the Islamic Councils, and the provincial nomads with the military, security, and intelligence apparatus has significantly decreased various crimes and anti-security activities in Sistan va Baluchistan. …Elders and tribal-leaders and the population of each region have an important role to play in establishing security in their region by identifying suspects and preventing disputes, and this is the best way to establish lasting security.” [7]
Coopting tribal structures allows the IRGC to take advantage of their existing legitimacy in the absence of comparable state institutions. Tribal leaders were initially drawn into cooperation with security forces by offers of economic assistance and other promises of development. These relationships have been maintained by routine consultations taken through official security structures such as the Shahid Mamar Operations HQ.

This process was described in 05/2013 by the spokesperson for the Shahid Mamar HQ, who underscored the mutually beneficial nature of these consultations, and the incentives for tribes to participate in the program out of self-interest:
“250 tribal-leaders in this region are cooperating greatly with … one another, the Shahid Mamar HQ and the Qods HQ, and they hold advisory-meetings in the field of security weekly and monthly. … This kind of cooperation and coordination has led to security and peace in the region, and a peaceful life for the population. … Last year, tribal-leaders raised issues and problems in a meeting in Iranshahr with Sardar Pakpour – the commander of the IRGC-GF – and very good decisions were made. He stated: The most recent meeting with Sardar Majidi – the representative of the Supreme Leader – was held in the Shahid Mamar HQ ... and tribal-leaders expressed the needs and desires of the population.” [8]
One of the pictures released after Shushtari's martyrdom,
showing him in a meeting with tribal leaders.
This consultation is a major theme in the Shushtari narrative. Much of the imagery and accounts released after his martyrdom show him personally meeting with tribal leaders in remote mountains, and taking great pains to gain their cooperation. [9]

Consultation helps build the state's legitimacy by demonstrating Tehran's tolerance of traditional culture and by giving them a stake in the Islamic Republic. However, it also serves to subordinate these previously independent structures to state oversight, making the former dependent on the latter for dispute resolution and their livelihood.

The effect of this consultation can be seen in the initial implementation of the SSOB plan itself in 2011. Rather than direct recruitment by the IRGC, the first wave of recruits were identified by their respective tribal leaders. By gaining tribal endorsement, the government gained the trust of residents who otherwise would have been skeptical of such a program. [10]

Local personnel in the background during
handover of border-guards captured by Jaish ul-Adl
Similarly, when Tehran needed to negotiate the return of police conscripts who had been captured by insurgents from Jaish ul-Adl in early 2014, they turned to the tribes and indigenous Basij to manage the their return.

This assimilation of indigenous personnel into state structures also serves to reinforce a key rhetorical element of the Shushtari narrative: intra-Islamic unity, which comprises the program's second major objective.

The program's third objective aims to reduce grievances that spring from a perception of sect-based underdevelopment by alleviating poverty and promoting development. The SSOB program explicitly targets those who have refused to do their mandatory national service. [11] Media descriptions of this targeted recruitment indicate a sympathy to the reasons for doing so. They note that many of these men already have families and face severe economic challenges as it is, and simply cannot afford to be absent for upwards of two years.

These media reports also note that this absenteeism has cascading effects. The failure to secure proof of service means that they are vulnerable to arrest, can be denied employment, and cannot legally cross the border, all of which force them deeper into the cycle of poverty and crime.

SSOBs address this concern by allowing recruits to serve locally, alleviating both the challenges of conscription, and of avoiding conscription. In addition, their training is reported to include vocational and educational courses, potentially leading to long term economic competitiveness.

Officials are quick to tout the SSOB's role in fostering economic development, citing the number of people hired by bases, and describing their role in creating jobs in local communities. These numbers are couched in sectarian terms, describing the number of jobs created for Sunnis or the number of jobs created for Baluchs. [12] For instance, by 05/2013, 1,000 Sunni-Baluchs were reportedly employed throughout the Shahid Mamar HQ, with another 700 employed by the HQ itself. [13]

In addition to direct employment, IRGC officials highlight the role of the security forces in developing public infrastructure, including hospitals, utilities (water/electricity/communications), roads, schools, and agriculture/economic projects. [14] Indeed, one of the few pieces of this program that can be verified via open-source satellite imagery are the miles of new roads that now snake their way through the mountains of Baluchistan.

Organization (External):
Shahid Shushtari Operating Bases are a unique category of Basij, and are not organized according to the the standard 'province-area-zone-base' system. SSOBs haven't replaced these levels, but operate in parallel to them in predominantly Sunni-Baluch areas in southern parts of the Kerman and Sistan va Baluchistan provinces.

SM HQ Cmdr, Col. Zarifi
SSOBs are grouped under the Qods HQ, which is responsible for the IRGC-GF's operations in the southeast, including border security. [15] The HQ's current commander is BG Qadratollah Mansouri.

Subordinate to the Qods HQ is the Shahid Mamar Operations HQ (SM HQ). Based out of the city of Iranshahr, the SM HQ is otherwise known as the Salehin Brigade, and has been operational since 04/2012. [16] Its current commander is Col. Hossein Zarifi, who has held the position since at least 12/2013. [17] It's previous commander was Col. Barat Morvarid, who is notable for being an active member of the Saberin special forces. [18]
Fmr SM HQ Cmdr, Col. Morvarid

The SM HQ is the primary body responsible for coordinating SSOB activities. It's role is consistently described in terms of managing county-level security through the SSOBs. [19] A key part of this responsibility is conducting security-consultations with local tribes, which is described above.

By 05/2013, the SM HQ was responsible for 60 SSOBs in 18 counties, with a combat strength of 8,000 personnel drawn from “active-duty Basij, combat squads, and [active-duty soldiers from the IRGC-GF]”. [20]

However, it's unclear how exactly this number corresponds to the strength and distribution of SSOBs. The 8,000 includes personnel not directly affiliated with SSOBs, while SSOBs may employ non-active-duty Basij as well. For instance, Col. Morvarid noted that these 60 bases employed 1,000 people. However, in late-2011, when the program first kicked off, 2,000 personnel had been earmarked for training. [21] This suggests that the number who could be mobilized for security are distinct from both the number employed for the base's day-to-day functions, and the total active combat-strength of the headquarters.

Exactly which counties make up the 18 total is also unclear. It is assessed with moderate confidence that 10-11 are in Sistan va Baluchistan province, including: Chahbahar, Konarak, Sarbaz, Nikshahr, Zaboli, Sib va Suran, Saravan, Khash, Iranshahr, Dalgan, and possibly Zahedan. The situation is less clear in Kerman province, but the remaining 7-8 counties are likely found in the province's southernmost 'foot' south-east of Kerman city itself.

The location of the 60 SSOBs is similarly unclear thanks to wide variances in local and national reporting. Out of the 60 total, around 17 have been documented, upwards of 14 of those are in Nikshahr county. Some uncertainty arises from imprecise media accounts, and the difficulty in geolocating certain locations.

Documented bases include:
2x Qasr-e Qand District, Nikshahr County
1x Mehban, Central District, Nikshahr County
1x Espakeh, Lashar District, Nikshahr County
1x Hariduk, Lashar District, Nikshahr County
2x Unspecified, Lashar District, Nikshahr County
1x Nikshahr, Nikshahr District, Nikshahr County
1x Chahan, Nikshahr District, Nikshahr County
1x Mohtaramabad, Fanuj District, Nikshahr County
1x Khairabad, Fanuj District, Nikshahr County
1x Bent, Bent District, Nikshahr County
1x Kurandap, Bent District, Nikshahr County
1x Ahuran, Nikshahr/Sarbaz County
2x Zarabad District, Konarak County
1x Kahir, Central District, Chahbahar County

Organization (Internal):
The bases themselves are small and relatively rudimentary. In line with their stated purpose of providing local security, they can be thought of as equivalent to rural police-stations.
SSOB, Qasr-e Qand
SSOB, Khairabad or Mohtaramabad

Although they are about the same size as the forts dotting the Iran-Pakistan border, these bases are more focused on administration and local-interaction than permanently housing a garrison. Thus, they are constructed in much the same manner as other government buildings. Available imagery shows them as one-two story brick & plaster construction, often with an attached courtyard. According to comments made by Col. Morvarid in 2012, they range in size between 220 and 660 sqm (for reference, the average house size in the US is about 220 sqm). [22]

Baluch Basij, Qasr-e Qand
In 2013, Col. Morvarid claimed that each base could employ up to 24 people, indicating that they are manned by active-duty Basij. [23] However, this alone doesn't account for the quoted quantity of personnel associated with the program, suggesting that these core personnel handle day to day operations and can be supplemented by so-called 'normal' Basij who operate on a part-time basis. As with all Basij units, the exact strength of each base will vary according to the location's needs, and the population's capacity to support it.

Notably, available documentation shows that at least some of these bases are not commanded by IRGC officers, but by indigenous locals who don't carry a rank.[24] This does not appear to be a universal pattern, but is worth continued observation.

Special Company, Qasr-e Qand
Recruits go through a two-month training period conducted by regional IRGC bodies, such as the IRGC's Salman [Brigade] in Sistan va Baluchistan. This period includes basic military and non-military (e.g. literacy) training. [25]

In at least one case, a “special company” of around 70 Basij from SSOB(s) was created in order to provide extra security in the Qasr-e Qand area. [26]

Appendix: Shahid Shushtari: [27] [28] [29]
A native of the Khorasan region in NE Iran, Shushtari first cut his teeth as a company commander putting down the 1979 Kurdish insurgency. In this task, he was joined by Qassam Soleimani and other figures who would go on to figure prominently in the Qods Force, the IRGC's foreign-service arm.

Through the rest of the war, Shushtari developed relationships with other influential Khorasanis, including the current Supreme Leader, whom he had known before the revolution. In 1982, he was tasked with forming the Khorasan-based 5th Nasr Division along with Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf (current mayor of Tehran) and Esmail Qani (current deputy commander of the Qods Force). By 1983 he was the division's deputy-commander, and by 1984 it is reported that Qalibaf gave de facto control of the division to Shushtari. In the final years of the war, he was given command of the IRGC's Najaf HQ. After the war, Shushtari played a key role in defeating the ill-fated Mersad Operation by the Mujahadin-e Khalq that followed the 1988 ceasefire.

By 1991, Shushtari took command of the Fifth Division, and went on to play a major role in internal security operations in NE Iran during the 1990s. This period saw violence from the Afghan Civil War spill over the border, including displaced persons, drug trafficking, and direct attacks. At the same time, Esmail Qani was given command of the IRGC's Samen Alaeme northeast regional HQ in Mashhad, Qassam Soleimani was conducting his own operations in the southeast, and the Qods Force were extending their reach into Afghanistan.

Shushtari in S&B, pictured with the
elusive Khaybar rifle.
Around 2000, he returned to NW Iran, where he was tasked with fighting Kurdish insurgents as head of the Seyyed al-Shohada HQ. Then, in early-2009, he was transferred to the southeast and tasked with fighting Baluch insurgents as head of the Qods HQ. He also held the position of deputy commander of the IRGC-GF though it is unclear when he was appointed to this position.

He held this position for around six months until October 2009, when he was assassinated in a Jundallah suicide bombing in Pishin. Alongisde Shushtari, those killed included BG2 Rajab-Ali Mohammed-Zadeh, who commanded the IRGC in the Sistan va Baluchistan province, Col. Fath Moradi, who commanded the IRGC in Iranshahr County, Col. Abdul-Samad Mirshahrki, who commanded the Imam Ali Brigade, and the IRGC in Sarbaz county. [30] Also among the dead were a number of the IRGC's Saberin special forces, as well as the tribal leaders that the IRGC were meeting with.

Footnotes / Works Cited:
[1] The IRGC's Approach to Establishing Security is One of Light, not Power. FNA. 11/05/2009.
[2] IRGC Construction [Jihad] to be Sent to Sistan va Baluchistan. FNA. 12/30/2009.
[3] In the Shahid Shushtari Plan, 2000 Absentee Sunni Soldiers to b Absorbed into the Basij. Nabikhabar. 10/31/2011.
[4] Two Operating Bases Launched in the Mamar Operations HQ in Nikshahr. IRNA. 05/06/2013.
[5] Attracting Youth to the IRGC Strengthens Security. Nahad. 02/22/2013.
[6] Shahid Shushtari Operating Base Launched in Qasr-e Qand County. Nikshahr Blog, 11/16/12
[7] Shahid Shushtari Operating Bases Launched in Mehban Nikshahr. Junaid Blog, 12/21/12
[8] 700 Sunni-Baluchs Are Being Absorbed into Bases of the Shahid mamar HQ. IRNA. 05/28/2013
[9] Who Were the Internal Enemies of Shahid Shushtari in Sistan va Baluchistan? Zahedan Press. 10/18/2012.
[10] ibid Nabikhabar, 10/31/2011
[11] ibid Nabikhabar, 10/31/2011
[12] Visit by the Commander of the Shahid Herati HQ to the New Friday-Prayers-Leader in Zabol. Oshida. 05/10/2014.
Note: This article corresponds to a seperate sub-regional HQ in Sistan, not the Shahid Mamar HQ in Baluchistan.

[13] 8,000 Basij Operating Subordinate to the IRGC's Shahid Mamar Operations HQ. IRNA. 05/06/2013.
[14] ibid IRNA, 05/28/2013
[15] Special Shahid Shushtari Company Opened in Qasr-e Qand County. Tayef-e Hazizi. 12/09/2013.
[16] ibid IRNA, 05/28/2013
[17] Opening of Shahid Shushtari Operating Base in Zarabad. YJC. 12/31/2013.
[18] ibid IRNA, 05/28/2013
[19] ibid IRNA, 05/06/2013
[20] ibid IRNA, 05/06/2013
[21] ibid Nabikhabar, 10/31/2011
[22] ibid Junaid Blog, 12/21/2012
[23] ibid IRNA, 05/06/2013
[24] ibid Junaid Blog, 12/21/2012
[25] ibid Nabikhabar, 10/31/2011
[26] ibid Tayef-e Hazizi, 12/09/2013
[30] Several IRGC Commanders Killed in Attack in South-East Iran. Radio Farda. 10/24/2009.

Monday, October 20, 2014

IRIN Naval Regions

With an increasing emphasis on power projection, the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) is responsible for Iran's maritime security in the Caspian Sea, Gulf of Oman, and the greater Indian Ocean. The IRIN is organized into four or five naval regions, details about some of which are unclear. These administrative and/or operational divisions are believed to be largely equivalent to other services' 'regional headquarters'.

1st Naval Region – Bandar Abbas:
The 1st region, as well as the IRIN's general HQ, is co-located with the IRGCN in Bandar Abbas. As of 11/2013, it is commanded by Vice-Admiral (hereafter, BG2*) Hossein Azad. [1]

* This article employs generic nomenclature for titles (e.g. Brig. Gen. / Mag. Gen.) rather than their naval-specific equivalents (e.g. Rear Admiral / Admiral) in order to simplify the issue as much as possible, and make it clear which positions are equivalent to one another.

2nd Naval Region – Bandar Bushehr or Bandar Jask:
Multiple sources refer to both sites as the IRIN's 2nd region. Facilities at Bushehr pre-date those at Jask and include much of the service's industrial capacity, while the facilities at Jask are more recent, less extensive and reflect the more recent operational shift towards the Indian Ocean.

As 10/2014, the Bushehr regon is commanded by BG2 Mohammed Reza Abbasian. [2] [3]

As of 10/2013, the Jask region – also known as the 'Velayat' region – is commanded by BG2 Gholamreza Shirani. [4] [5]

3rd Naval Region – Bandar Konarak:
As of 12/2013, the region is commanded by BG2 Shafii. [6]
The location of this site is sometimes referred to as Chahbahar, a larger city nearby.

4th Naval Region – Bandar Anzali:
As of 04/2014, the region is commanded by BG2 Afshin Rezai-Haddad. [7]

Independent Bases:
In addition to these regions, the IRIN began operating out of an an independent base in Pasabandar in October 2014, which is located at Iran's south-easternmost corner.[8]
Other independent bases are rumored to exist along the Gulf of Oman, but these cannot be confirmed at this time.

Training Centers: [9]
Imam Khomenei Naval Science and Technology College (Nowshahr)
Marine Training Center (Manjil)
Specialty Training Center (Rasht)
Task Training Center (Sirjan)

Appendix – Commander IMINT:
Known staff-level personnel include:
- Commander: BG Habibollah Sayyari
- Deputy Commander: BG2 Gholam-Reza Khadem Bigham [10]
- Deputy, Coordination: BG2 Jafari-Tehrani [11]
- Deputy, Operations: BG2 Siyavash Jareh [12]
- Deputy, Manpower: BG2 Mohammed Pourkalaher [13]
- Deputy, Engineering and Passive Defense: Hassan Jafari [14]
- Head of the Ideology/Politics Office: Mohammed Baqer Rooshandel [15]
- Head of Research and SS Jihad Organization: BG2 Ali Gholamzadeh [16]

Footnotes/Works Cited:
[1] News Meeting with the Commander of the IRIN's 1st Region. ISNA. 11/27/2013.
[2] Overhauled Lavan Warship, Combat Chopper Back into Operation. FNA English. 11/30/2013.
[3] "The War of the Bushehr Commandos in Khorramshahr" to be Released Soon. IQNA. 10/19/2014
[4] Commander of the 2nd Velayat Naval Region (Jask): The Sacred Defense Was the Fulfillment of God's Promise. IRNA. 09/27/2013.
[5] Each Year the IRIN Provides Assistance to Low Income People in this Area. IRNA. 04/28/2013
[6] Visit of the Commander of the IRIN's 3rd region with the Friday-Prayers Leader of Konarak During Navy Week. Konarak News. 12/02/2013.
[7] Commander: Iranian Navy's Best Destroyers Navigating in Caspian Sea. FNA English. 04/19/2014.
[8] NEDAJA Forces Deployed in Pasabandar. Mashregh News. 10/15/2014.
[9] NEDAJA front page & index.
[10] Societal Immunity to Cultural Invasion Are Among the Blessings of the Quran. NEDAJA.
[11] Iran [to] Host Conference on Naval Security in the Indian Ocean (IONS) in 2018. NEDAJA.
[12] Iranian Navy Warships Repel Pirate Attack on LPG Vessel. FNA English. 10/20/2013.
[13] Interview with BG2 Mohamed Pourkalaher, the IRIN's Manpower Deputy. Bazarekar.
[14] Launch of the Jask Airport by the IRIN. NEDAJA.
[15] New Head of the IRIN's Political-Ideology Office Appointed. FNA. 02/08/2014.
[16] News Meeting Held with Officials from the Army's Research and Self-Sufficiency Jihad. AJA. 09/23/2014.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Basij Organization - The Imam Ali Security Battalion

In the fourth part of 'Basij Organization' series, we look at the organization and role of the Imam Ali security battalions (IA bn).
The first part of this series covered the Imam Hussein battalions.
The second part covered Beit al-Moqdas battalions.
The third part took a look at Basij in Semnan province.

Imam Ali bn personnel, during a December 2013 exercise in Khuzestan

Acronyms and Abbreviations
Organization (external)
Organization (internal)

Acronyms and Abbreviations:
bn - Battalion
BaM - Beit al-Moqdas [bn]
IA – Imam Ali [bn]
IH – Imam Hussein [bn]
IRGC – Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps

The groundwork for the creation of the Imam Ali security battalion was laid in 2007 when Gen Ali Jafari was appointed to the position of IRGC commander in 2007. Jafari then initiated a well-known restructuring that included strengthening Basij response capabilities across a range of kinetic and non-kinetic domains, while also further integrating them within the IRGC command chain.

However, following the suppression of the the anti-government demonstrations that followed the 2009 presidential election, in large part by Basij forces, the IRGC sought to translate their 'lessons learned' into developments that could better enable them to respond to such anti-government protests in the future. In fact, according to comments made by Gen. Jafari in August 2014, the recruitment of IA bn personnel came directly from those who played an active role in suppressing the 2009 protests. [1]

Out of this reflection emerged the Imam Ali security battalions. The formation took approximately two years, with first battalions reportedly becoming operational in early/mid-2011. [2] [3]

As one might expect from a battalion formed in the aftermath of the 2009 protests, IA bns are oriented towards the suppression of mass demonstrations in urban areas. Descriptions of their role include the confrontation of “internal threats” [4] and “establishing urban security”. [5] They are largely equivalent to the police forces' Special Unit, which also conducts riot-control, though the Special Unit is smaller and more tactically versatile than IA bns.

Although they might otherwise be described as a riot control unit, officials note that their responsibility is not limited to dealing with physical confrontations. [6] Specifically, this means “confronting the enemy's soft threats”, which includes “economic, political, and social pressures”. [7] This means, to be blunt, the suppression of non-violent, civil protests.

Although this has negative connotations from a liberal point of reference, where it is viewed as further evidence of the IRGC's growing stranglehold over the Islamic Republic's last gasping institutions of democracy, it is an entirely legitimate response when viewed through the lens of the IRGC's 'soft war' narrative.

This narrative posits that since WWII the spectrum of warfare has been broadened by the West to encompass not just the traditional concept of kinetic war – which is labeled as 'hard war' – but also includes abstract concepts that fall far outside traditional security domains (aka securocratic wars). Specifically, it argues that social liberalization is a threat to the Revolutionary System equal to that of the Saddam's invasion, but instead of relying on tanks to topple the government, soft war relies on tactics that decrease the legitimacy of said government, ranging from human-rights promotion, to the sale of candy bars, to criticisms of the government's handling of the economy.

Although easy to dismiss as just another example of autocratic insecurity, like Qaddafi laying the blame for anti-government protests on the youths these days what with their LSD and their MDMA, Tehran's argument – at its most basic – is absolutely true. Social liberalization DOES pose an existential threat to the Revolutionary System, whose core pillar of legitimacy rests on a state of perpetual confrontation between the Global Oppressed (Iran), and the Global Oppressor (the West with a capital-'W'). Calling this Manichean narrative into question by entertaining a political posture that is anything less than total resistance against what is ostensibly an absolute evil, calls into question the very raison d'etre for the Revolutionary government.

Indeed, this perspective is actually firmly rooted in the historical record. It builds on established western theory when it comes to the concept of 'soft power', as well as the collapse of the Soviet Union, whose demise was due in large part to the attractive power of Western norms like human rights and the free exchange of people and ideas across borders. During the Cold War, promotion of these norms following the 1975 Helsinki Agreement helped galvanize domestic opposition across the Eastern Bloc, who called for greater freedoms and political rights, a process which eventually culminated in the collapse of post-WWII communist project.

Although numerous criticisms of this perspective can be made – the main one being that if Tehran's Revolutionary ideology is less attractive than liberal political and social norms, than perhaps it doesn't deserve to be defended in the first place – one cannot take the intellectually lazy approach and simply write it off as the product of an evil government. In fact, Tehran's narrative would find the distinction between peaceful and non-peaceful protests, and the distinction between civilian and soldier exactly as useful as the distinction between a tank and a fighter aircraft, they may operate in different domains, but both are legitimate combatants nonetheless.

Organization (external):
As with other Basij battalions, an accurate image of the total number of IA bns is unavailable. Because they are focused on urban security, a reasonable assumption is that they are concentrated near major urban areas, particularly Tehran given it's political importance and high-density.

In October 2011, it was reported that Gen. Jafari attended a ceremony with 31,000 Basij from IA bns in the Tehran area, though this reporting is likely inflated, or otherwise inaccurate given that a year later in September 2012, Jafari reported that “more than 100” IA battalions had been formed, ostensibly nationwide. [8] [9] This suggests that the personnel strength mentioned the year before likely corresponds to a national strength. Jafari also noted in his 2012 comment that 400 IH battalions had been created, hinting at a 1:4 ratio between IA and IH-type battalions. This provisional ratio is largely born out by the author's observation, which indicates that IA bns are deployed at a lower rate than other types.

Organization (internal):
Unlike other Basij battalions – such as the IH or BaM bns – an accurate image of IA bn strength cannot be provided at this point. The same is true of the bns subordinate units, including companies and platoons. It is a reasonable assumption is that it does not diverge too far from the pattern established in other battalions. That is, one should expect a strength of around 200 personnel, organized into three companies.

Battalion personnel are typically equipped with: protective vests, helmets and face-guards, circular or rectangular riot shields, batons, and paintball-guns (the latter likely firing pepper-spray projectiles).

IA bns make heavy use of motorcycles for urban mobility, recalling the ubiquitous imagery of the 2009 election protests. These are typically operated by teams of two, a vehicle operator and a dismount who carries a circular shield and baton. These are supplemented by a smaller number of lightly armored vehicles such as Land Cruisers.
Tactical employment of motorcycles by police in 2009
Armored Land Cruiser

[1] The recent confrontation with the Fitna '88 formed the Imam Ali battalions. Jam-e Jam. 08/30/14.
[2] Imam Ali battalions active in the Semnan Province's IRGC. Moj News. 05/11/11.
[3] Two-day tactical practice exercise for Imam Ali security battalions held in in Darab. BP Fars. 10/05/13.
[4] ibid BP Fars, 10/05/13.
[5] ibid Moj News, 05/11/11.
[6] Our task is not only to deal with physical incidents. Etemaad Newspaper. 10/08/11
[7] ibid Moj News, 05/11/11.
[8] ibid Etemaad, 10/08/11
[9] Organization of more than 100 Imam Ali security battalions. PANA. 09/28/12.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

[Translation] - Interview with Gen. Pourdastan on Iranian Assistance to Iraq and the 'Daesh' Threat

 In the following interview with the commander of Iran's Army Ground Forces - BG Pourdastan - he doesn't offer any groundbreaking revelations when it comes to Iran's security policy, but he does offer a handful of noteworthy comments.

First, he describes the existence of political-security red-lines "far from Iran's borders". This isn't a new trope in Tehran's lexicon, but is important in the continued recognition of the fundamentally trans-national nature of Iran's national-security. Whether it's Tehran's concerns in the Levant, or Moscow's desire for a glacis in eastern-Europe, or Washington's continued hegemony over the Caribbean Basin, national security is never just national.

Second, he couches the rise of ISIS within the same historical processes that account for Tehran's interpretation of the post-Soviet political scene, and the resulting 'future war' framework that encompasses the so-called soft, semi-hard, and hard forms of war. For documents related to this theoretical outlook, see the following rough translations:
What is Soft War, and Ways of Confronting It
Recognizing the Enemy and Paying Attention to the Leader's Guidance Keeps the County Safe Selected Writings on Modern War Theory
Will History Repeat Itself? [Iran's Characterization of the 1975 Helsinki Accords]
If one ignores those articles and only takes one thing away from this post, it should be that for Tehran, the threat from ISIS is the same as that from Twitter, or Facebook, or any of the other manifestations of calls for a more open society. The difference between the two is, to indulge in a bit of hyperbole, no more than the difference between an M1A2 Abrams, and an F-16; they simply operate in different domains.

This, tragically, is the legacy of Revolutionary ideology. A world view dominated by the Manichean struggle between the Global Arrogance and the Global Oppressed, cannot help but see every event in these terms. Like other post-colonial ideologies, Khomenei's Islamic Ideology remains bound by the same constructed power relationships it sought to overturn, building up an image of a skilled,  scheming, omniscient Washington unfettered by incompetence, coincidence, or above all, the agency of others.

Third, he describes Iran's military support for Iraq as training, noting that if Baghdad requests more, it would go through Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), before being implemented by the branches of the Armed Forces itself.

Fourth, he characterizes the Army Ground Forces' doctrinal theory of 'rapid reaction' in terms of two distinct threats; a transregional power (aka, NATO/the US), and regional proxy wars. This is consistent with the global embrace of 'rapid reaction' forces that has happened worldwide in line with the declining likelihood of conflict requiring the full-scale mobilization of a nation's industrial might, and the increasing demands placed on a national OODA-loop to quickly respond to, and deploy force against, security threats. In short, just like Russia's RRFs in Ukraine, the US's Stryker Brigades, or the UN's own RRF in Bosnia, Iran is seeking a lightweight force that can quickly be deployed to a theater for limited kinetic engagements short of full mobilization.

Fifth, he notes (in a paragraph that is omitted below) that the Zulfiqar tank has entered mass production.
As a Zulfiqar-enthusiast, let's just say that I'll believe that when I see it.


Title: Our Assistance to Iraq in the Struggle against ISIS is Training / Holding of Two National Exercises in the East and West of the Country / We are not Exposed to Transregional Threats
Date: September 28, 2014 / Mehr 6, 1393
Source: Tasnim News
Note: Following translation is approximate. While accuracy is estimated to be high, it's precision is not.

Stating that that Iran has assisted Iraq with training in the struggle against, the commander of the Army Ground Forces said: A big exercise in the southwest and another in the southeast, which are national-level maneuvers, will be held.

In an interview during Sacred Defense Week, Amir Pourdastan said about the defensive ability and readiness of our military to confront threats: The continued observation of threats is one of the tasks of the military's tasks, and the provide the necessary defensive capacity as they observe regional and trans-regional threats, and analyze their intelligence-personnel.

The commander emphasized: Our defense industry has very close communication with universities, and in addition to this, the military forces have innovative and creative individuals who can build arms and provide them to the military.

** Our red lines are very far from our borders / We now face the new methods used by threats
Pourdastan continued about the new threats and solutions in confronting them, saying: Today we face the new methods [being used by] these threats, threats which are different from those in the past, and as the arm of the Islamic Republic we must create and strengthen our capacity to confront them. One of these threats are the activities of Takfiri groups in Iraq, Syria, and around Iran. To confront these, we have created the necessary capacity in our self, and we are watching all the movement of these groups. We've determined that if these terrorist groups or Takfiris come close to crossing our red-lines, which are very far away from Iran's borders, a heavy blow will be dealt to them.

** Our assistance to Iraq in the struggle with ISIS has been training
The commander of the Army Ground Forces said about Iran's cooperation with the government of Iraq in the struggle against ISIS: Our main assistance to our brothers in Iraq has been training, and ... considering that the people of Iraq are under pressure every day, Iran has sent aid so that the pressure on them is reduced, however the primary assistance has been training, and if the government of Iraq requests military assistance from Iran, the AFGS will review this request and we will be implement it.

**ISIS is borne of America's Imagination, Thoughts, and Strategy in the Region
According to Pourdastan, the US-headed coalition that was formed against ISIS cannot be a solution against ISIS, because if we go back a bit,we see that ISIS was born by the same imperialist countries, meaning that ISIS is borne of America's imagination, thoughts, and strategy in the region.

And in response to a question about the reason for the historical formation of these Takfiri groups, he said: If I want to point out the history of these Takfiri groups, it is necessary to go back some time. This subject returns to matters related to the collapse of the of the USSR. After the collapse, America became the only superpower, and after several years one of the research institutes in America offered a theory stating that a new power was emerging, which would pose challenges if America could not confront it. [The institute said that] this power is the Islamic world, and comes from Shia-Sunni unity, which is [inspired] by the Islamic Revolution.

Pourdastan said: America conducted lot of analysis and ultimately arrived at the conclusion that they themselves must enter the Middle East and West Asia, however to do this they needed an excuse, the same excuse that Mossad and the CIA planned. After the events of 9/11, it was one of the puppet groups that gave this excuse to America, with which America resorted to in order to enter the region with the objective of confronting of the pole of power in the Islamic world. After the Islamic Awakening, they saw that the countries in the region had awoken.

** The Main Goal of America is Confronting Iran.
Pourdastan said: America's intention was confronting the Islamic Republic, however because of [the wise leadership of the Supreme Leader and the military's readiness], they headed towards Iraq and Afghanistan so that they could create a [regional development] and confront the Islamic Republic.

Meanwhile, America suffered from challenges caused by the high economic cost, their soldier's lack of motivation, national discontent, worldwide discontent, so that they changed their strategy and today have placed proxy-wars on their agenda, and now ISIS fights as an American proxy in the region and the objective of America is not to confront ISIS.

** The way to confront ISIS, is not with Tomahawk missiles / This is no way to confront ISIS
The commander of the Army Ground Forces said about the difficulties in confronting ISIS: The Takfiri-terrorist group ISIS is not a regular military force with positions that can be targeted by bombs or missiles. This group [uses] the strategy of hiding themselves among the people, and for this reason the way to confront these groups is not with Tomahawk missiles, and I [can firmly say] that until now, aerial bombing and missiles have only destroyed the infrastructure of Iraq and Syria, and ... is no counter to ISIS.

Pourdastan ...said: If America is honest in their words, and want to confront ISIS, they must confront the countries that send ISIS money and arms, that buy oil from them, and use their land to train new forces, and then send them to Syria and Iraq. However, now we see a sham movement under the supervision of America, the [ostensible purpose] of which is to confront ISIS, [but] it is certain that this movement will not take this path, and I do not think that ISIS will be weakened by it.

According to Pourdastan, the thing that would weaken and cripple ISIS is Shia-Sunni unity. When the Shia and Sunni authorities enter the field and give a fatwa, people [will] leave ISIS, [and then] Iraqi Army [can] take over. After this presence of [Shia and Sunni] religious authorities, we can have a role in stopping ISIS[.] [After] ISIS had come [as far as] Diyala, we now see that that [after an initial] retreat, the Iraqi Army has found a role [thanks to] the widespread popular support, and in the near future we will witness the destruction of ISIS in Iraq. I think that the Iraqi Army, thank god, has a very good capacity.

He said: It has good capability in terms of ground, air and helicopter[-warfare], is capable when confronting ISIS, and also enjoys popular support. However, if they request assistance from the Islamic Republic, it will be raised in the SNSC, and the military forces are prepared to provide any kind of assistance that is necessary.
** We have good rapid reaction forces at our disposal
And in reference to Iran's new strategy for confronting these terrorist threats, including the formation of rapid reaction forces, he said: We have increased the Army ground forces capabilities in two areas of asymmetric threats, including the area of confronting a trans-regional country, and another area of proxy wars and confronting terrorist groups, and we have good rapid reaction forces at our disposal, which can enter this field and in these areas utilize all the military capacity of the Islamic Republic, and we use a joint-plan with the IRGC which has been planned, practiced, organized, and implemented so in case this threat materializes, we have the experience to confront it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Northeast Regional Operations Headquarters


Acronyms and Abbreviations
Appendix: Personnel Structure and Commander IMINT
Footnotes/Works Cited

Acronyms and Abbreviations:
AB: Armored Brigade
Army: Term of art that refers specifically to the 'Artesh' (aka. the regular-armed-forces). Distinct from 'Army' as a general reference either to a nation's ground forces, or armed forces in general
BG: Brigadier General
BG2: Brigadier General, 2nd-Class
CB: Commando Brigade
Col.: Colonel 
HQ: Headquarters 
IB: Infantry Brigade
IRIA: Islamic Republic of Iran Army (AKA, Army Ground Forces, or NEZAJA
IRIADF: Islamic Republic of Iran Air Defense Force (AKA, Khatam ol-Anbiya Headquarters)
IRIAF: Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force
MIB: Mechanized Infantry Brigade 

The third part in this series covers the Army's Northeast Operations Headquarters, which is based in Mashhad, and borders Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan. The first part in this series covers the Northwest Headquarters, and the second part covers the Western Headquarters.

The Northeast HQ is one of five other regional HQs created under the Army Ground Forces' (IRIA) 'Samen restructuring plan'. Operating on the assumption that they would face a simultaneous, multi-front attack that would preclude centralized strategic control of battles, the IRIA created these HQs to control operations and coordinate tactical actions within their respective theaters. By coordinating tactical actions at this level, the IRIA hopes to achieve their operational objective of regional integrity, which when taken as a whole comprises the national-level defense-in-depth strategy.

Their role is further described by the commander of the IRIA – BG Ahmed Reza Pourdastan – in a 2013 interview: 
“With the objective that units be completely self-sufficient and be able to confront threats independently, we created five regional headquarters in the northeast, southeast, southwest, west, and northwest, and we designed the structure and organization of these headquarters to be self-sufficient and not need outside equipment when confronting threats. These HQs have all of the structure and organization required for an independent and self-sufficient unit, [including] support, and transport units, as well as hospitals.”[1]

The HQ itself is based in the city of Mashhad, and is currently commanded by BG2 Ali Jahanshahi, who was appointed to the position in November 2013. [2] [3] Its deputy commander is BG2 Hadi Pour-Esmail. [4] The HQ's area of responsibility covers the provinces of South Khorasan, Razavi Khorasan, North Khorasan, Golestan, Mazandaran, and Semnan. Moreover, as the top Army body in the region, the HQ is also responsible for other Army forces, including the Air Defense Force (IRIADF) and the Air Force (IRIAF). [5]
Enlarge for Full Size

Units subordinate to the headquarters include the now-independent brigades of the Army Ground Forces' 77th Mechanized, 30th Infantry, and 58th Commando Divisions, as well as the pre-existing 38th Armored Brigade, the newly formed 444th Engineering Group. Less is known about other Army units ostensibly under the HQ's authority, including the IRIADF's own regional operations, and the IRIAF's forward-air-station and tactical-fighter-base.

Enlarge for Full Size

- 77th 'Sa A'Pirouz Samen Alaeme' Mechanized Infantry Division Operations HQ (IRIA) [6]
     Location: Mashhad
     Cmdr: BG2 Reza Azriyan [7]
     Associated Units:

      177th Brigade
          Location: Torbat Heydariyeh
          Cmdr: Col. Abufazl Bozorgi [8]

      277th 'Shahid Tavalaee' Brigade
          Location: Quchan
          Cmdr: Col Gholamreza/Alireza Fakhrabad [9]

      377th 'Shahid Sarlashkar Parooz Hebroni' Brigade
          Location: Mashhad
          Cmdr: BG2 Masoud Tamizi [10]

- 30th Infantry Division (IRIA)
     Location: Gorgan
     Cmdr: Unknown
     Associated Units:

     130th 'Shahid Daljuyan' Infantry Brigade
          Location: Bojnourd
          Cmdr: Col. Alireza Sadeqi [11]

      230th 'Shahid Mataji' Infantry Brigade
          Location: Mazandaran and Golestan prov'n; Gorgan, Gonbad, Azadshahr, and Doab. [12]
          Cmdr: BG2 Hossein Mirtaqi [13]

     330th Brigade
          Location: Gorgan [14]
          Note: Little or no references to brigade.

- 58th 'Zulfiqar' Commando Division Operations HQ (IRIA)
     Location: Shahrud
     Cmdr: BG2 Majid Zareh  [15]
     Associated Units:

      158th 'Shahid Keshavarzian' Brigade
          Location: Shahrud
          Cmdr: Col. Mehdi Mehmarbashi [16]
      258th 'Shahid Pajuhandeh' Brigade
          Location: Shahrud
          Cmdr: Col. Abulqassem Karimi Hosseini [17]

- 38th Independent Armored Brigade (IRIA)     Location: Torbat Jam
     Cmdr: Col. Mohammed Suleimani [18]

- 444th Combat Engineering Group (IRIA)
     Location: Unknown
     Cmdr: Unknown

- Region 5 Logistics/Support (IRIA)
     Location: Mashhad
     Cmdr: BG2 Hossein Firouzyan [19]

- 5th Army-Aviation Combat Base (IRIAA)
     Cmdr: Col. Abdulreza Khodadadi [20]
     Includes 'Vali Asr' UAV group; no details.

- 'Imam Reza' Northeast Air Defense Region (IRIADF)
     Cmdr: BG2 Abdallah Rashad [21]

- Mashhad Forward Air Station (IRIAF)
     Location: Mashhad
     Cmdr: Unknown

- 12th 'Shahid Hosseini' Tactical Air Base (IRIAF)
     Location: Birjand
     Cmdr: Col. Hamid Moustafavi [22]

Appendix: Personnel Structure and Commander IMINT:
Enlarge for Full Size

Footnotes/Works Cited:
[1] Rapid Reaction, the Focus of Future Wars: Evaluation of NEZAJA rapid reaction Forces from the Sacred Defense to the Samen Plan. AJA. 02/25/2013
[2] Top Army Commander in the Northeast: The Sympathy of the Armed Forces was a Factor in the Success of Operation Samen Alaeme. IRNA. 09/27/2014
[3] [temporarily unavailable, as of 09/28/2014] Khorasan News01/08/2012.
[4] The Army is Holding Eight Programs in North Khorasan. MNA. 09/20/2014.
[5] The Activity of Transregional Countrys' Military Forces are in Full View of the Iranian Army. FNA. 01/20/2013
[6] Judo Championship Held by Units of the NEZAJA's North East Regional HQ. IRNA. 08/19/2013
[7] [news in brief; no title] Nasim Online. 11/05/2013.
[8] [Flowers Laid on the] Graves of Martyrs in Torbat Heydariyeh. Torbat-e Man. 09/25/2014
[9] The Army's Self-Confidence and Self-Sufficiency is the Causes Frustration in the Arrogance. FNA. 04/18/2014.
[10] Interview with Seven Honorable [Generals] of Iran. Khorasan/Sardabir. 04/17/2014.
[11] ibid MNA 09/20/2014
[12] Military Forces from the 230th Brigade to Hold Parades in Four Cities in Golestan and Mazandaran. MNA. 04/17/2014.
[13] The Power and Stability of the Army Ground Forces to be Displayed During Sacred Defense Week. IRNA. 08/25/2014
[14] [temporarily unavailable, as of 09/28/2014] Khorasan News. 05/07/2013
[15] The Warriors of the Sacred Defense Proved the Legitimacy of Islamic Iran to the World. IRNA. 09/22/2014
[16] The Capability of the Army Today Is Not [Concealed]. FNA. 04/18/2014
[17] The Main Role of the Army in the Protection of the Homeland / Model [Establishing During] the Sacred Defense is Fixing Problems. MNA. 04/17/2013.
[18] The Army Has Brought Honor and Pride to the Population. Jam-e Rooz. 04/18/2014
[19] ibid Khorasan/Sardabir, 04/17/2014
[20]  ibid Khorasan/Sardabir, 04/17/2014
[21] ibid Khorasan/Sardabir, 04/17/2014
[22] IRIAF Air Bases. The Arkenstone. 07/22/2014