Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Translation - Rapid Reaction, the Focus of Future Wars: an Evaluation of NEZAJA Rapid Reaction Forces from the Sacred Defense to the Samen Plan

(emphasis added)

Title: Rapid Reaction, the Focus of Future Wars: an Evaluation of NEZAJA Rapid Reaction Forces from the Sacred Defense to the Samen Plan
Date: February 25, 2013 / Esfand 6, 1392
Source: AJA

Rapid reactions operations are a part of military missions in which a unit is capable of arriving at the mission area from any point in the shortest possible time with the required equipment, and are characterized by mobility and rapid movement. Abilities that, although used by NEZAJA in the past, are now universal in the new force structure, and is the first priority in all units. The Army, as the largest and most comprehensive defense force across our vast county, benefits from units that [are capable of completing a a variety of tactical and operational objectives during their missions]. 'Rapid Reaction' traditionally includes classic military programs and plans, which is seen in the Army's history. 'Rapid reaction' operations are as essential to the survival of a military force as water and air is for an organism... . With the changing nature of war and the emergence of asymmetric wars in the region during the recent decades, it is necessary, now more than ever, to review unit organization and a transform their objectives and structure[.] In addition to a number of NEZAJA units whose main missions were [already] rapid reaction, now all units have the power to perform any type of operation at any time and place.

Brig. Gen. Ahmed Reza Pourdastan, NEZAJA commander, says in this regard: “We in the military world have entered a new space, a space that has different threats from those of the past. We arrived at the conclusion that we could not compete in the asymmetric space given our previous structure, equipment, and tactics. ... [in the region], we have witnessed a confrontation [between] a high-technology country and an inferior-technology country. If we want to compete in this space, we must change our structure, organization, and planning. Previously, NEZAJA units were deployed against threats from Iraq's Baathist regime in the west and the south west. But in an asymmetric space, it is possible to be attacked from two or three fronts simultaneously. Therefore, there was a need for our units to have a presence on all the borders. We changed this distribution of units so that units have flexibility and high [unclear/radiancy]. We have established that units have sufficient mobility and self-sufficiency. They do their jobs very quickly. Because we have a need for high mobility in asymmetric spaced, units are brigade-centric so that they can quickly command and take action.”

[image one]

The NEZAJA commander's statement verify that with the unit's new structure and composition, they can perform rapid response operations in any area, and that they have [received] the necessary training, armament, and weaponry.

[Looking back at the NEZAJA in the Iran-Iraq war], we find that during the first hours of the Baath regime's invasion, the first NEZAJA units that blocked the enemy's advance were 'rapid reaction' units. At the start of the invasion, after only a few hours [in which the only fighting was by locally-deployed units], the rapid reaction of NEZAJA was observed, in which [units] arrived at the front from other parts of the country many kilometers away ... .

General Pourdastan also specified: With the objective that units are able to be completely self-sufficient from headquarters and confront threats independently, we created five regional headquarters in the north-east, south-east, south-west, west, and north-west, and we designed the structure and organization of these headquarters to be self-sufficient in confronting threats, and not to need equipment from the outside. These HQs have both support and transport units, as well as hospitals, and all of the structure and organization required for an independent and self-sufficient unit. The structure is also lighter, so that they have more flexibility. With this objective for our units settled, we have designed, developed and implemented exercises on this basis. We have also [unclear] the type of tactics for employing weapons. The first and second Gulf Wars, and the Afghanistan war were good lessons for us to acquire the capabilities of trans-regional forces, and create these capabilities for ourselves in a confrontation with them.

[image two]


Brig. Gen. 2nd-Class Khosravi, commander of the NEZAJA's 65th Special Forces Brigade said that units and subordinate forces including infantry units (?) are trained and always ready : … the 65th brigade is one of the special units whose diverse skills and expertise [means that] they are used in sensitive and special missions, which other members of the armed forces could not complete. Geographical location, weather, terrain conditions, night or day, none of them affect the mission because these forces have all the necessary training to do battle in mountains, forest, desert, on skis, by diving, or by parachute, and besides that, all of them have special skills according to their operational unit.

[image three]

Brig. Gen. 2nd-Class Payambari, who has experience in the NEZAJA's 65th Special Forces Brigade, and the 23rd Commando Division, defines rapid reaction: A unit's response to an enemy that does not occur within a specific time limit is a mistake, and must instead be accomplished within a certain time.

The commander of the 23rd Division who has done countless rapid reaction missions with commandos from the 65th Brigade and others considers the characteristics of this type of operation: The first and most important characteristic of rapid reaction [operations] is observing the enemy. One must always survey the enemy's status, the principles of war say that you should maintain the line of contact, that is you must not break the line of contact with the enemy and must always monitor the enemies activities because if we don't observe the enemy, we cannot respond to it.

[image four]

Another attribute that Payambari considers important to rapid reaction is unit-evaluation, morale and motivation. In addition, he believes that if we are to be successful and respond rapidly, [we] must uncover the enemy's capabilities, [and also] equip ourselves with modern military technology and equipment.

Payambari described two important component in rapid reaction as: “knowing oneself, and knowing the enemy”, adding: Surely, any unit that can strengthen these two areas can respond sensibly and quickly against the enemy.

Benefiting from knowledge of psychological-operations and the ability to analyze the movements of the enemy, read, [and then] predict his thoughts is important, which Payambari considers indispensible for unit commanders and operational planners in rapid reaction [operations].

Payambari's recognizes his own experience during the Sacred Defense in important operations such as Fateh al-Mobin, Beit al-Moqdas, Qader, etc, in which the NEZAJA were able to respond to the enemies advances, decimate them from the shadows by rapidly displacing units, [thus] enabling other forces along the front to seize the initiative and achieve success.

The Commander … said: Across the Iran-Iraq border from West Azerbaijan to Khuzestan, we witnessed many NEZAJA operations carried out against the Baathist enemy … in which most of the deployed units were dispatched from other regions across the country [and although] the unit's territorial region was another province, their equipment and forces were dispatched in the shortest time possible for the operating region.

The commander added: In the Beit al-Moqdas operation, three NEZAJA armored divisions managed to cross the Karun river with their equipment in the shortest possible time, making use of bridges installed by their engineers, while under heavy enemy fire, and surprise the enemy, liberating Khorramhahr.

Payambari, while addressing the numerous examples from the Sacred Defense, [said] that the best example of NEZAJA's rapid-reaction against the enemy [is that] this type of ability that is considered in modern war is [the same] as that [employed] during the Sacred Defense.

Undoubtedly, with modern technology and equipment, the appearance of war is different to military planners, than in the past. Rapid reaction is the focus of future wars and and an army in future wars will have a strong advantage on the battlefield [if] they have rapid reaction forces. In these circumstances, it is certain that the cards of war will benefit those who command rapidly, prepare their operational plans, and whose forces act rapidly and convey these plans onto the battlefield.

[Fortunately, the army has developed their capabilities by utilizing the knowledge of their commanders and experts over millions of hours spent assessing various aspects of regional wars, and the strengths and weaknesses of regional and trans-regional forces.]

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Translation - Military Forces Over the Past Year, Part 2 (Rouhani's Demands of Sepah / Missile Exercise Controversy )

  • The Supreme National Security Council reportedly told the IRGC (Sepah) to halt missile exercises over the past year. Current SNSC secretary (Adm. Shamkhani) denies this while IRGC commanders claim that exercises are continuing as planned.
  • IRGC arrests 'cyber-activists' in Kerman for the crime of - among others - communicating with foreigners. 
  • Continued combat operations by the IRGC in south-west region.
  • Army and IRGC forces conducted disaster relief in northern provinces.
  • New 'Khatam al-Anbiya' naval zones formed to deconflict IRGCN/IRIN operations
  • Promotions and transfers within chain of command include:
    • Defense Minister (MODAFL): Brig. Gen. Hossein Deghan 
      • Advisor to DM: Rostam Qasemi (fmr oil minister)
    • SNSC Secretary: Adm. Shamkhani
    • Head of the Center for Strategic Defense Resarch: Brig. Gen. Vahidi (former-DM)
      • Vahidi also heads Expediency Council's Politics, Defense & Security Committee
    •  Army Coordination Deputy: Hassan Saifi (fmr head of Organization for Preservation and Publication of the Sacred Defense)
    • IRIAF Deputy Commander: Alireza Barkhour (fmr commander of TAB-8 /  Isfahan Air Base)
    • IRIAF, TAB-8 Commander (Isfahan): Masoud Roozkhosh
    • IRIAF, TAB-2 Commander (Tabriz): Col. Hamid Vahedi
    • IRIN Coordination Deputy: Adm. Peyman Jafari Tehrani
    • Head of MODAFL's Naval Industries Organization: Adm. Rastegari (fmr IRIN coordination deputy)
    • IRIN Aviation Commander: Captain Ismaelian
    • IRGCGF Najaf Ashraf Headquarters (Kermanshah) Commander: Gen. Mohammed Nazer Azimi

Title: Rouhani's Demands of Sepah / Missile Exercise Controversy
Date: March 16, 2014 / Esfand 25, 1392
Source: Mashregh News

*Rouhani requests Help from Sepah

Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, remarked during the annual meeting of Sepah commanders: We want Sepah to take some of the government's burden.

Rouhani emphasized: As president, I want [help from Sepah] so that the people witness their sacrifice in the defeat of the enemy in the domain of livelihood & production.

*Basij exercises held in 28 provinces

'Towards Jerusalem' exercises is a series of Basij exercises which started last year and [whose] second round was held this year in 28 provinces across the country.

… in the next year, we should witness 2 other exercises by the Sepah's Imam Hussein & Beit al-Moqdas [battalions] held respectively in the Alborz & Kurdistan provinces.

*The Supreme National Security Council Prevents Missile Exercises

On March 11, 2013, 23 MPs sent a letter to the president, reminding him of the lack of support for missile exercises.

The note said: Unfortunatly, for the first time in the past 10 years, permission for the large annual missile exercise was suspended and the funding to support the military force's emergency plans has not been given by the SNSC,

*Sepah exercises continue until the end of the year

[Following] the cessation of missile exercises, General Ramazan Sharif, the Sepah General Staff's PR officer said: Sepah exercises usually [include] 2 specialized exercises and joint-forces exercises [total of four?)

*No interruption in the completion of Sepah exercises 

General Hossein Salami, the deputy Sepah commander, said in reaction to this news[:] Sepah exercises are conducted in accordance with plans prior predictions and there will not be any interruptions in [their] completion

*Shamkhani's cancellation of missile exercises denied 

Finally, SNSC Secretary Admiral Ali Shamkhani, in his reaction to the MP's statement, denied that the SNSC cancelled the exercises, and said: This news is not true. Our friends were confused.

Shamkhani added: We explained this to them in a meeting.

*The 'Fateh-1' Award Given to General Pakpour by the Commander in Chief 

Ayatollah Khamenei (CiC) gave General Pakpour – commander of the Sepah Ground Forces – the Fateh One medal.

*Sepah Intelligence detained several cyber-activists associated with foreigners

Several cyber-activist associated with foreigners were arrested in Kerman by Sepah intelligence.

According to one official, these people are accused of participating in a sophisticated media-security network, committing cyber-crimes, and communicating with foreigners.

*Freeing Hostages and the Destruction of a number of bandits in the south-east of the country by Sepah

In the wake of the bandit's attempt to kidnap two Iranians, Sepah Ground Forces from the Qods Headquarters killed a number of bandits in addition to freeing hostages during a surprise operation in the greater Iranshahr area

In this operation, three bandits were killed and three others arrested.

*Details of the Martyrdom of 3 Sepah engineers in Saravan

3 Engineers from the Sepah Ground Forces' Qods HQ were martyred in the Saravan border region.

The engineer's vehicle, which was [part of the border-security construction project], hit an explosive device left by bandits and smugglers, martyring three of them.

*Special Order from the Supreme Commander of the Sepah for disaster relief in the Mazandaran and Gilan provinces

Following heavy rain and snow in th north, Maj. Gen. Jafari issued a special order to Sepah commanders in these two provinces to provide assistance.

*Armored units and Army helicopters deployed to help the northern provinces by order of Maj. Gen Salehi.

The Army's supreme commander issued instructions to units deployed in the Gilan and Mazandaran regions to provide necessary help and assistance to people trapped by snow.

In this regard, the army helped by dispatching engineering equipment [including] bulldozers, loaders and heavy vehicles, [and also provided] ambulances, and medical equiopment, as well as personnel to clear snow.

[*Presentation of Scan Eagle UAV to Russians] 

*Formation of the Khatam al-Anbiya Naval Headquarters

Two HQs, KaA 1 (Army Navy), and KaA 2 (Sepah Navy) were formed for better coordination and operational command between units operating in territorial and international waters, the first of which is located in the Sea of Oman and international waters, while the second is the in Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Of course, both are deployed under the command of the central KaA HQ.

*Sepah security for nuclear scientists 
After the assassination of nuclear scientists, protection of these individuals was assigned to Sepah , and [afterwards] we did not witness any assassinations …

*General Hossein Deghan the 11th Defense Minister

General Deghan was elected as MODAFL deputy with 269 yes-votes, 10 no-votes, and 5 absentations

*Admiral Shamkhani appointed as SNSC Secretary 

*General Vahidi appointed as head of the Center for Strategic Defense Research 
With the appoitment of Shamkhani to the SNSC, the former DM, replaced him as the CSDR.

Vahidi also heads the Politics, Defense, and Security Commission in the expediency council

*Amir Alireza Barkhour Deputy commander of the IRIAF

Alireza Barkhour ,the former commander of the Shahid Babaei Air Base in Isfahan, was promoted to the rank of Brig. Gen. [and] was appointed deputy commander of the IRIAF.

Previously, Amir Khalaban Mohsen Darehbaghi was the deputy IRIAF commander.

*Admiral 'Jafari Tehrani' IRIN coordinating deputy

Admiral Peyman Jafari Tehrani was promoted to Brig. Gen. and appointed to the position of coordinating deputy by order of Admiral Sayyari (IRIN commander) and was approved by Maj. Gen. Salehi (Artesh Commander).

Prior to that, Admiral Rastegari served as the coordinating deputy, who now serves as the head of the MoD's Naval Industries Organization.

*New responsabilty for Rostam Qasemi 
Rostam Qasemi, the former oil minister, was appointed as senior advisor to General Hossein Deghan at MODAFL

*Appointment of a new commander for IRIN Naval Aviation 
By order of IRIN commander Habibollah Sayyari, Captain Ismaelian was appointed as commander of naval aviation.

Before this, Admiral Nayyeri commanded this unit.

*General Azimi as the commander of the Najaf Ashraf Headquarters

Sardar Mohammed Nazer Azimi, commander of the 'Nabi Akram' Sepah [in] the Kermanshah province, was appointed as commander of the Najaf Ashraf HQ by order of Maj. Gen. Jafari, while retaining his previous position.

Previously, Sardar Ali Akbar Nouri commanded this regional HQ.

*Appointment of Amir Saifi to Army manpower deputy

Amir Hassan Saifi was appointed to the position of Manpower Deputy for the Army by order of Maj. Gen. Ataollah Salehi, Commander of the Army.

Previosly, Amir Saifi [was] the head of the Organization for the Preservation and Publication of the Sacred Defense.

*New Commanders Appointed for the Isfahan and Tabriz Air Bases

After the appointment of Amir Alireza Barkhouri to Deputy IRIAF Commander, and his [departure] from the eight air base in Isfahan (Shahid Babaei Base), Amir Masoud Roozkhosh was appointed as commander of this base.

Prior to this, Roozkhosh was commander of the second air base in Tabriz (Shahid Fakoori [Base]), which [is now commanded] by Colonel Hamid Vahedi.

*New head of the IRIN's political-ideology offices 
Hojjat ol-Eslam Mohammed Bagher Roshandel was appointed as the new head of the IRIN's Political-Ideology Offices, and his inauguration ceremony was attended by Admiral Sayyari , and [other top IRIN commanders].

*Two IRIN Commanders Promoted

… Captain Khanzadi, the IRIN's Planning and Programs Deputy, and Captain Shafai, the commander of the IRIN's third naval district, were promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Translation - Selected Writings on Modern War Theory

Title: The NEZAJA is Transformed and Becoming More Powerful
Date: February 28, 2011 / Azar 12, 1389
Source: Mehr News Agency Zahedan – MNA: Commander of NEZAJA said: the Army is becoming more powerful and is changing day by day.

To Mehr News Agency in Zahedan, in the ceremony for the opening of phase two of the “Sarlashkar Shahid Yaqoob Ahmad Bigi” garrison for the 88th armored division (Sistan and Baluchistan), Amir Reza Pourdastan said : The layout and organization of NEZAJA before the revolution was designed and implemented by NATO ...

He said: This layout was designed to counter WARPAC forces, and in case of attack by these forces, Iran's army could hold for at least two hours before NATO forces entered the war in Chahbahar.

The NEZAJA commander stated: Designed by NATO, the largest garrisons were established in Tehran and Isfahan, with support in Shiraz, so they could confront the WARPAC.

He added: The new NEZAJA development plan was put on the agenda by Army and Joint Chiefs of Staff  several years ago, which is based on the transformation of NEZAJA, and being able to stand against the enemy.

Pourdastan said this plan was approved by the JCS.

He added: In this plan, flexible and rapid-movement brigades are formed in order to easily deploy anywhere.

He stated: considering that in the imposed war 90% of our forces were [deployed] in the west of the country, due to current asymmetric threats ..., the design of ground forces was carried out in such a way that combat units are deployed to all of the country.

The NEZAJA commander said: Because of the sensitivity in the country's east, independent NEZAJA brigades and two heavy artillery [brigades/groups] are stationed there. ...

Title: Human Forces an Important Element in Future Wars
Date: July 8, 2012 / Tir 8, 1391
Source: Mashregh News 

Intro: Commander of the NEZAJA said: Future wars are human-centric wars, in which human-forces [have] the first word. (?)

To Mashregh News, Ahmed Reza Pourdastan ... said: In wars such as the first Gulf War, equipment was important, but afterward it became clear that other issues were present at the decisive battle.

He added: To be effective in war, human-forces must be spiritual, and fight for their beliefs and ideas.

Recalling the defeat of Israel in the 22 and 33-day wars, he said: In these wars, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Izzadine al-Qassam brigades of Hamas did not have many weapons, but due to their belief system they could win.

 He added: In the sacred defense also, our warriors fought with belief. 


Title: [NA]
Date: February 20, 2013 / Esfand 2, 1391
Source: Araz News - Link now defunct
Notes: Low-confidence translation.
After September 11, and with the observation of the first and second Gulf Wars, and the Afghanistan war, army commanders [have] a new understanding of the battle-space and [have] adopted new military doctrine. The structure of asymmetric warfare is such that army commanders decided to undertake major structural changes to enhance AW capability. In an asymmetric space, the enemy usually does not attack from one front, so the change in the army's structure [was] towards stand-alone/self-sufficiency capability...

Title: Ground Forces; [agility and mounted movement] (?), an interview with BG Ahmed Reza Pourdastan, NEZAJA Commander 
Date: ~March 2013 / Esfand 1391 – Farvadis 1392
Source: Saff Magainzine, #385, p. 12
Note: Low confidence translation. The following is drawn from my personal notes, rather than a 'clean' translation. As such, it is not a line-by-line translation. The intent is to convey the general message of the information being presented. 
Question: In regard to these new type of threats you said that the NEZAJA has a comprehensive plan, whose central characteristic is agility is one of the characteristics of. However, the ground-forces unveiled a prototype of the Zulfiqar tank and showed that armore [remains] a focus of the ground forces. My question is this: tanks are equipment that have been used in past heavy wars, what role does the tank have in the newest strategy of the ground-force?

Answer: One of the principal components of combat units is mobility, who have tanks and APCs. ... 

When unconventional battle-space became dominant in the global community - and in the new literature introduced after 9/11 - there was this attitude that other tanks had lost their effectiveness and the army should [stop using] armored combat units. We had many meetings and arrived at the conclusion that armored combat units can be very effective in unconventional battle-space.
First we evaluated the capabilities, and the strengths and weaknesses of regional forces. In such an environment, we wanted to know how we could defend, then close with and defeat the enemy.
It is natural that a tank in this environment moves differently than a tank in a classical environment. This tank should be able to take advantage of its capabilities [and] protect itself against precision-guided-missiles, move in a way that cannot be seen (and confronted).

As a result of these meetings, we have ... arrived at the conclusion that to improve agility and dexterity we would reduce our staff density at the surface (front line?)[.] Therefore, in order to [advance], the enemy must endure high costs; other layers improve our defense [by improving our situational awareness, and forming a better view of the battlespace for our counterattack].

We arrived at the conclusion that one of the elements that can help in this area is the tank; however, the tank has found upgrade capability against guided missiles and can keep it hidden from radar and some eyes; besides, it would benefit from good firepower. Therefore your answer is this, tanks are not only for heavy battle, but also help mobility. ...
Question: Amir. One of the most important components in modern and future wars is the issue of command and control. The technologies allow the commander to witness the battle in real time and make decisions quickly and accurately.... Due to the lack of these systems, commanders [in the Iran-Iraq War] were forced to fight from the front line. If in the future we entered into another unwanted war, would our senior commanders appear on the front line?
Answer: In regards to the subject of C4I you mention, the technology that, in recent decades, has entered the armies of the world, is not unique to our army. In the context of the army ground forces, the situation is very good. Today I can communicate with the bases of my subordinates in audio and visual, and we practice this regularly. This relationship is such that we can even see each other, and exchange maps and information. We have the capacities to suit the operation and are improving it. ...
Question: The new strategy among powerful armies of the world is to reduce manpower in favor of technology. They even argue that robot soldiers can be used on the battlefield. Does the army have faith in this strategy, or does the battle still rely on human resources?
Answer: On the subject of future wars, there are two view-points: an equipment-centric, and human-centric approach. Some writers believe that in future wars robots will be dominant. Another group does not, and believes that human beings will be the decisive factor in battle. If the wars of recent decades are reviewed, ... the belief that humans are the determining factor in battle is confirmed. Look at the 22 and 33 day wars with the Zionist regime. ... [Hezbollah] did not have equipment, they did not have F-16 fighters[.] How is it that the [IDF] was stopped against a limited number of Hezbollah battalions? They did not have navy gunships? They did not have Merkava tanks? This shows that human resources are critical. ...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mystery Facility North of Bandar Abbas

In a comment on the "IRGCN's 26th Missile Group" piece, a regular reader* drew my attention to a collection of military facilities about 20 km north of Bandar Abbas, broaching the possibility that they might also be linked to the IRGC . While I cannot comment on this with confidence, it is certainly plausible. Indeed, all things being equal, they probably are.

The most persuasive 'devil's advocate' argument against these being IRGC UGFs is the fact that the area is littered with manufacturing and other extraction-based industries, which suggests that these UGFs may simply be mines.

Given the balance of evidence, this scenario is unlikely. For instance, why would a mine be attached to a collection of hardened shelters typically associated with munition storage? Similarly, these sites lack many of the characteristics and associated mine-infrastructure found in other nearby extraction industries, which tend to be open-pit quarries rather than these horizontal shaft-types. The caveat to this claim is that it is made with little in-depth knowledge of what constitutes 'mine-infrastructure'.

Nonetheless, the nearby industrial compounds share a number of features typically used to identify military facilities including entry-control points, ordered/geometric building configurations, and perimeter fencing. This is further muddied by the fact that the sites in question differ considerably from the 'traditional' layouts associated with the units described on the Arkenstone thusfar - ground force maneuver units like NEZAJA armored brigades.

Thus, I offer the following without detailed conclusions for the moment. My hope is to ruminate on the issue, and crowdsource any alternative explanations. Given the importance of the Straits, and the role of the IRGC within them, it would not be unreasonable to assume these facilities have strategic significance (or, to be pedantic, tactical or operational significance).

Bandar Abbas area overview
UGF, area overview
UGF, garrison
UGF-adjacent hardened shelters
UGF, primary tunnel
UGF, secondary tunnels
 * A tip of the hat to 'NICO'.

Friday, March 14, 2014

26th Missile Group (IRGCN)

Rouhani in Bandar Abbas, February 2014; 16th Missile Group
Although much has been written about Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp Navy (IRGCN) and its role in the Persian Gulf, little is known about its actual organization. Part of this curtain was pulled back in late-February 2014 when President Rouhani paid a visit to the naval headquarters at Bandar Abbas. Here, he was photographed next to a placard identifying the IRGCN's 16th 'Aasef' Missile Group.

Although this group's garrison - located in the Hormozgan county of Minab - could not be located, this placard provided enough enough information to start searching for other missile groups.

One garrison that could be located belongs to the 26th 'Salman' Missile Group, which is based in Borazjan, the capital of the Dashtestan county in the Bushehr province. [1] This puts it in the IRGCN's 2nd Naval Zone, which is commanded by Brig. Gen. 2nd-Class Ali Razmjou. [2]

Located 40 km inshore, the garrison is butted up against the Zagros mountain range, just east of Borazjan itself. Google Earth offers imagery of the base from 09/2003, 06/2006, 06/2011, and 01/2012. Under construction in both the 2003 and 2006 imagery, the base is completed by 2011.

The most prominent feature is the presence of an underground facility (UGF) characteristic of IRGC missile bases those in Kermanshah, Khorromabad, and elsewhere.

Also present are a number of hardened shelters used for munition storage and large warehouses used in place of the traditional motor-pools.

The garrison itself is small - as one would expect - with only a handful of buildings.

Works Cited/Footnotes:
[1] Presence of the SL's Province Representative at a Gathering at the Salman Missile Group in Dashtestan. May 8, 2013 / Ordib. 18, 1392. Dashtestan Gov't Page.
[2] ‘IRGC Navy completely dominates PG waters’. Jan 22, 2014. IRIB.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Basij Organization - Beit al-Moqdas Battalion

In the second part of 'Basij Organization' series, we now to turn to the Beit al-Moqdas battalions (BaM bn), alternately known as rapid reaction battalions (RR bn). The first part of this series covered the Imam Hussein battalions (IH bns), and can be found here. Unlike IH bns, BaM bns are closer to a true militia force than conventional infantry.

Organization (external)
Organization (internal)


Although the 'rapid reaction'-adjective predates the formation of these battalions, so-called RR bns were first referenced in May 2012 by Basij Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammed Reza Naghdi who announced their creation.[1]

At the same time, Naghdi also announced that these battalions across the country would simultaneously carry out exercises each year in their respective provinces. Since then, the 'To Jerusalem' exercises have received heavy media coverage each year. These exercises typically occur in November, December, and February, last around 2 days, and typically involve 5-10 provinces at a time.

In August/September 2012, the Deputy Commander of the Basij – Brig. Gen.Ali Fazli – claimed that: “6,000 Ashura and al-Zahra battalions have been organized in the form of Beit al-Moqdas Battalions.”[2] This statement indicates that these new battalions were formed by reorganizing pre-existing types. However, the fact that BaM bns are uniformly male (while al-Zahra bns are female) suggests this may be a partial misrepresentation.

This hints at a broader nomenclature issue: just what is a BaM or RR bn anyway? Open source media frequently use the term 'Beit al-Moqdas' and 'Rapid Reaction' interchangeably, but its not clear if this is always the case. In other words, all BaM battalions are RR bns, but are all RR bns BaM bns? Are Ashura, al-Zahra, and Kosar battalions grouped under RR framework, even though they are not “RR bns” per se.

In Janaury 2014, an IRGC commander further noted that since 2012, close to 250 of these newly organized battalions are “tribal”, suggesting that they hail from Iran's historically-tribal ethnic minority regions like Kurdistan or Luristan.[3]


Like IH bns, BaM bns are one of the Basij's primary combat-units. Although this might seem, at first glance, to be a tautology – the Basij are a militia and thus inherently combat-oriented – it must be remembered that the majority of the Basij aren't dedicated militia units. In this regard, the Basij plays a role closer to that of 'the Party' in east-bloc countries, focusing on social, cultural, and political power (soft war), rather than traditional militia activities (semi-hard/hard war).

With this in mind, BaM bns fill the role of a classical militia. One IRGC commander in charge of a BRZ noted in October 2012 that: “...confronting defense and security threats [are] the most important missions of the Beit al-Moqdas battalions.”[4] Similarly, when announcing their creation, Basij commander Naghdi characterized them as being combat-oriented, and capable of both territorial-defense and total-war.[5]

Instead of forming the core of conventional maneuver forces (like IH bns), BaM bns provide immediate, local defense without the need for a lengthy mobilization process. Hence their name – rapid reaction forces.

Some of the tasks associated with the rapid reaction role include, as described by Brig. Gen. Fazli in November 2012: “...urban-defense, SAR/disaster-relief, confronting sedition [i.e. riot control], defense of [static] sensitive areas/centers, manning checkpoints, and ambush/counter-ambush [tactics]...”[6] The description of another exercise echoed this, noting that responsibilities includes conducting patrols in order to secure the local population and other soft targets.[7] Against conventional armies, this means fighting delaying actions in order to buy time for other units – such as IH battalions – to mobilize.[8] This includes “anti-heliborne” operations.[9]

When compared to conventional ground forces, militia units have only the most rudimentary capability when when it comes to carrying out complex tactical actions. Exercises are short and just as focused on political-ideology as combat training. Actual training is mostly limited to basic arms handling and maneuver.

Civil defense is another responsibility of rapid-reaction forces and seeks to minimize the damage to local populations during a war (or natural disaster). [10] [11] Thus, in many exercises, Basij can be seen practicing fire-fighting, or performing search and rescue operations.

County-level tactical procedures are hinted at in open source media. For instance, during the February 2014 exercises, within a county of the Qom province, two BaM bns were responsible for passive defense, while another two conducted urban-defense, while a Kosar battalion performed civil-defense.[12] During November 2012 exercises, within Divandareh county in the Kurdistan province, one BaM bn was tasked with covering the highway leading north out of the county-capital, while another covered the highway leading south, and a third was held in reserve inside the city. [13]

The tasks described by Iranian sources match traditional militia responsibilities, mirroring a description of militia activities provided by the US Army's Training and Doctrine Command's pamphlet on a hypothetical generic OPFOR militia: “In the event of an invasion, militia forces are expected to defend key installations in their towns and cities, among them factories, bridges, roads, and railways. … These forces, quite literally, fight for their farms and homes. Predominantly, militia units are manned by workers and peasants, over-age reservists, medically-retired soldiers, women, and young men not yet old enough for military service.”[14]

Organization (External):

According to Gen. Naghdi's comments in May 2012, each BRZ is expected to mobilize a rapid reaction battalion. A BRZ is a subdivision of a Basij Resistance Area (BRA), which itself is typically a county-sized administrative unit. Thus, a general rule of thumb is that one should expect there to be a militia battalion for each township, or equivalent population center (ex: a neighborhood in a larger city).

This rule of thumb is generally borne out by observation. During exercises in Bam county in the Kerman province, three BaM bns are associated with the three named BRZs.[15] Likewise, in Semnan province a small number of BaMs are associated with each rural BRA, mirroring the predicted number of BRZs within them, while a correspondingly greater number are associated with larger urban centers.[16]
Five BaM bns during a gathering at a Tehran BRA

On the other hand, the commander of the IRGC in the Zanjan province has been cited as saying that a RR bn is assigned to each of the Basij Resistance Bases (BRB) that make up a BRZ.[17] This claim is questionable given that many BRBs don't have a military role. It is possible these competing claims can be reconciled; for instance, like IH bns, BaM bns may have their own BRB, but not every BRB is expected to field a BaM bn. Alternatively, at least one image suggests that rapid-reaction platoons may be found at the base level.[18]

Assuming a deployment rate of one bn per BRZ, the total number per province will still vary widely according to internal provincial organization, something that remains opaque at this time. Generally speaking, observed strength is generally less than 10 bns per BRA, with just a handful found in many rural counties.

Assuming that the original figure of 6,000 battalions provided by Gen. Fazli is accurate, this translates to a total strength of 1.4 million personnel. Even if this theoretical strength is accurate, it is questionable how many of these forces could be mobilized at any one time, though since they are locally based, it is unreasonable to assume that they would be called to do so at the same time.

Media reports following each major exercise tend to emphasize the numbers of personnel involved, providing article titles like “10,000-person exercise in province X” or “30,000-person exercise in province-Y”. This narrative is meant to emphasize the level of support for 'the system' (Velayat-e Faqih), granting it legitimacy while at the same time deterring those who would seek to challenge it. This reflects the degree to which the Basij are not just a combat organization, but one that primarily conducts 'soft war' – the battle over ideas.

In other words, whether or not these 30,000 Basij engage in realistic wargames, or are just camping in tents while attending workshops for two days is irrelevant. The point is that 30,000 people are willing to sacrifice time and energy in order to support their government.

Organization (Internal):

BaM bns have both a numerical and nominal designation though, like with IH bns, the nomenclature for representing these designations varies. They may be referred to either as BaM bns, RR bns, or BaM RR bns. This variety is illustrated in this short list of observed titles:

- 300th Beit al-Moqdas Battalion (of the Khatam al-Anbiya BRZ)
- 211th 'Imam Hussein' Beit al-Moqdas Battalion (of the Karbala BRZ, of the Arsanjan BRA)
- Ninth Beit al-Moqdas Battalion
- Rapid Reaction Beit al-Moqdas Battalion (of the 119th 'Mohammed Amin' BRZ)
- Rapid Reaction Beit al-Moqdas Battalion (of the 2nd Jonda BRZ, of the [unknown] BRA)
- Beit al-Moqdas Battalion (of the IRGC's Lahijan BRA)
- Beit al-Moqdas Battalion (Rapid Reaction)
- 'Shahid Tondar Gooyan' Beit al-Moqdas Battalion (of the 121st Sabr BRZ)
This is made all the more difficult by the participation of non-BaM bns in 'RR/BaM bn' exercises.

Reports differ as to the size of a full-strength BaM bn. During exercises in early-2014, ISNA reported the deputy commander of the IRGC in Kerman province as saying that each battalion contained more than 260 personnel.[19] This account is supported by at least one image of a battalion in northwestern Iran being reviewed.[20]
260-strong Bn

However, in Novmber 2013, an IRGC operations deputy from the Rasht-county BRA in the northern Gilan province was quoted as saying that each battalion had 234 personnel.[21] This account is supported by surprisingly detailed reporting from exercises in Semnan.[22]

Whatever the hypothetical strength of a BaM bn is, it's actual strength is likely to be less. In the example from Rasht provided above, even though the commander claimed that the two battalions active in the exercise each had a strength of 234, the imagery provided alongside the report showed both at barely 50% of this. This hints at the risks of using exercise reporting to estimate force structure. In fact, it is extremely rare to see any assembled battalion with greater than 200 personnel. More often than not, the number is around 130.
Understrength Bn

Each battalion is divided into three companies (first, second, third). There are few references to these companies in media reports, which instead suggest that the basic building-block of the battalion is the platoon.[23] For instance, one article on the 2012 Semnan exercises noted: “In reference to the forming of more than 217 operational platoons subordinate to RR-BaM-battalions...”[24]1 Similarly, battalions are often described as being comprised of X number of platoons, rather than Y number of companies. [25] [26]

Nonetheless, companies do exist in one form or another with a strength of approximately 60 personnel.[27]

One possible explanation is that platoons and battalions are administrative units associated with, respectively, BRBs and BRZs, while companies are formed in the field. If true, this would help explain some of the questions concerning the organization of BaM bns within the provincial hierarchy described above. This is supported by some of the earlier reports which overwhelmingly tend to use platoons as the basic unit of organization.

With a theoretical strength of 22 personnel, these 'rapid reaction platoons' are the smallest Basij sub-unit.[28] One early source notes the existance of two different platoon types – Bam and Zulfiqar plts, though references to latter type have since disappeared.[29] In existing observations, this is the level at which battalions are understrength. While a bn commander will always have three companies to work with, and a co commander will always have three platoons to work with, a platoon may only have a handful of fighters.

Works Cited / Footnotes:
[1] Formation of Rapid Reaction Battalions in all Basij Resistance Zones [BRZs]. May 19, 2012 / Ordibehesht 30, 1391. IRNA
[2] Basij Forces See Guerrilla-Warfare Training. Oct 13, 2012 / Mehr 22, 1391. Raja News
[3] Formation of 250 Tribal Beit al-Moqdas Battalions. Jan 7, 2014 / Day 17, 1392. Basij News
[4] Mission of Beit al-Moqdas Battalions is Rapid Response to Enemy Threats. Oct 12, 2012 / Mehr 21, 1391. Fars News.
[5] Formation of Rapid Reaction Battalions in all Basij Resistance Zones [BRZs]. May 19, 2012 / Ordibehesht 30, 1391. IRNA
[6] 'Beit al-Moqdas' Rapid Reaction Battalion Exercise in Qonbad-e Kavus. Hakim64 Blog
[7] Members of the Rapid Reaction battalions of the BRZ 119 'Muhamemd Amin' (BRA Bahonar) in urban maneuver. Aug. 31, 2013 / Shahrivar 9, 1392. Modafee Blog.
[8] 'To Jerusalem' Exercise is held with the presence of 100 battalions in South Khorasan. Feb 26, 2014 / Esfdand 7, 1392 [year unconfirmed]. Defa Press.
[9] Anti-Heliborne operations by Basij Rapid Reaction Battalions of the Province. Jan 25, 2013 / Bahman 6, 1391. Hormozgan Basij.
[10] Passive and Urban Defense Beit al-Moqdas Battalion Exercise [in] Ahar(2). Nov 2, 2013 / Aban 11, 1392. Aharvesal.
[11] Big Gathering of Basij in Divandareh County to Mark Basij Week. Nov 21, 2012 / Azar 1, 1391. Kordestan Basij.
[12] 'To Jerusalem' is part of the options on the table for Iran. Feb 27, 2014 / Esfdand 8, 1392 [year unconfirmed]. Defa Press.
[13] Holding of big 'Companions of the Prophet' Exercise in Divandareh. Nov 21 / Azar 1, 1391. Kordestan Basij.
[14] Light Opposing Force (OPFOR) Operational Art Handbook. TRADOC Pamphlet 350-15. 09/14/1994. p. 2-11
[15] Beginning of 'To Jerusalem' Exercises with the Presence of 3 Basij Battalions in Bam. Mar 6, 2014 / Esfand 15, 1392. Tasnim News
[16] 1,300 People Participated in Beit al-Moqdas Exercise in Semnan. Nov 3, 2013 / Aban 12, 1392. IRNA [SITE?]
[17] Basij Forces See Guerrilla-Warfare Training. Oct 13, 2012 / Mehr 22, 1391. Raja News.
[18] Placard; Helpers of the Prophet Exercise – Nov 2012, Gorgan County Golestan.
[19] Beit al-Moqdas Exercises Held in Kerman. March 2, 2014 / Esfand 11, 1392. ISNA Kerman.
[20] Big Basij Special-Rapid-Reaction-Platoon Exercise Held in Maragheh. Oct 18, 2012 / Mehr 27, 1391. IRNA Tehran.
[21] Two-day 'To Jerusalem' Beit al-Moqdas Exercise Held / Imagery Report 1. Nov 29, 2013 / Azar 8, 1392. Khooban Khabir.
[22] 1,300 People Participated in Beit al-Moqdas Exercise in Semnan. Nov 3, 2013 / Aban 12, 1392. IRNA
[23] 10,000 Person Exercise Held. Nov 28, 2012 / Azar 8, 1391. Fars News.
[24] 10,000 Person Exercise Held. Nov 28, 2012 / Azar 8, 1391. Fars News.
[25] 48-hour Beit al-Moqdas Battalion Exercise in Gonbad Kavus Begins. Serasht.
[26] Big 'Companions of the Prophet' exercise began in Divandareh'. Nov 20, 2012 / Aban 30 1391. Kordestan Basij
[27] Holding of a Special Defense Course by Battalion of the Mohammed Amin BRZ of Shahid Bahonar BRA. June 11, 2013 / Khordad 21, 1392. Modafee Blog.
[28] Members of the Rapid Reaction battalions of the BRZ 119 'Muhamemd Amin' (BRA Bahonar) in urban maneuver. Aug. 31, 2013 / Shahrivar 9, 1392. Modafee Blog.
[29] 10,000 Person Exercise Held. Nov 28, 2012 / Azar 8, 1391. Fars News.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Iran's Mortars, a Follow Up - A Brief Look at the Klos-C Affair

On March 5, Israeli naval forces launched an operation in the Red Sea to sieze a ship - the Klos C - which they allege carried weapons from to, ultimately, Palstinian forces in the Gaza Strip. The operation is described in detail at the IDF's PR blog.

Although the headlines were dominated by he presence of Syrian-made 302 mm rockets, the shipment also included 180 120 mm mortars (incorrectly reported as 122 mm mortars). Now that the Klos-C has been escorted to an Israeli port and offloaded, the first images are coming out that identifies these mortars as built by Iran.

On Monday March 10, the IDF publically displayed the arms, posting a number of high-quality images to their Flickr account.

The following is an addendum to the previously posted guide to identifying Iranian mortars.  For further reference imagery, it is recomended that readers visit this page.

The first set is drawn from one of the earlier images released, showing the fiber-tube packaging and their markings.

The second set is drawn from the March 10 display. The most notable feature of this display was the deliberate attempt by the IDF to conceal all identifying markings on the mortars, which may be noteworthy.