Tehran’s Military First Policy, The Real Impact of Iranian Sanctions

By Stephen E Hughes, Association of Geostrategic Analysis

13 May 2014

From 2014 Security Briefing: The Iran Nuclear Threat Paradox, A Peaceful Nuclear Program?

After 1979 Iranian Revolution and the rise of militant Khomeinism, refusal to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Washington, the European Union, and the United Nations inflicted a multifold of harsh multilateral and unilateral sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran. These measures are intended to increase the international community’s leverage in efforts to compel the Islamic Republic to halt its support for international terrorism, curb potential WMD development activities, and comply with international norms regarding its nuclear program. With the revelation of Iran’s secret nuclear programs and hidden facilities such as undeclared nuclear facilities at Arak and Natanz, its pivotal role as the leader in Internal terrorism starting in 2006 penalties on Iran has become even severe and far-reaching. 1  It is argued and concluded Iranian sanctions are working, and further tightening these would squeeze and compel Tehran to relinquish its nuclear ambitions, perhaps fomenting a more moderate government to a regime change. However from an in-depth historical study of 204 cases of sanctions, colleagues at the Peterson Institute for International Economics examined there is no evidence in the past 100 years of sanctions saga to support the premise as a viable tool.2

In November 2013 Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated Western-imposed sanctions on his country have not fulfilled their goal, leading only to “some” economic hardship for Iranians while furthering Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.  “Let’s be frank, Sanctions never affected policy,”Zarif told the BBC in an interview , “Sanctions have produced 19,000 centrifuges, And some difficulty for Iranian people. “If you want to look at this practice that has been prevalent for the past eight years, and look at the net outcome: some pressure on the lives of Iranian people and 19,000 centrifuges. I don’t think anybody can claim victory for that,” he said. “If sanctions were to work, Iran would have stopped its enrichment program. It didn’t sanctions produced exactly the opposite,” 3

Tehran has adopted North Korea’s “Songun Chongch’i” or military-first Policy,4 this emphasizes the people’s military over all other aspects of state and society. Songun prioritizes the Korean People’s Army in the affairs of state and allocates national resources to the armed forces first. ‘Military first’ as a principle guides political and economic life in North Korea, with ‘military first politics’ dominates the political system, ‘a line of military first economic construction’ acting as an economic system, and ‘military first ideology’ serving as the guiding ideology.  However, Iran has two foremost military armed forces, the Regular Military or Artesh, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Supreme Leader Khamenei administration of military first integrates the IRGC into the economic and political framework of Iran, not the Artesh. The military first policy applies to both Armed Forces equally in the area of combat readiness. The Artesh armed forces military first policy is parallel to the IRGC solely based on the ascendancy of combat force structure, modernization and military readiness. Songun elevates the Korean People’s Army within Pyongyang as an organization and as a state function, granting it the primary position in the North Korean government and society. It guides domestic policy and international interactions. It is the framework for the government, designating the military as the ‘supreme repository of power.’ The North Korean government grants the Korean People’s Army the highest economic and resource-allocation priority, and positions it as the model for society to emulate.

Armed ForcesOf all the Gulf States Iran has the lowest reported GDP/ military spending. Yet it has created the largest armed forces, ballistic & cruise missile forces in the Gulf region and the largest production faculties for these weapons. 5

The Islamic Republic of Iran has two distinct Armed Forces; both have parallel structures, as Air Forces, Naval, and etc., the Artesh (Regular Military) IRIA and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, IRGC. The Artesh and the IRGC have their own subservices (the ground forces, air force, and the navy). In addition, the IRGC maintains several special-operations forces the Al Quds force being the largest. These forces total (estimate) about 545,000 active personnel, 650,000 reserve (not including the Law Enforcement& Basij Forces) 5a  Tehran’s navy has acquired a fleet of approximately twenty-four submarines, ranging in size from the 4000-ton displacements Russian Kilo class submarines to the 150-ton displacement Ghadir class mini submarines. The Iranian industrial base is producing small submarines at a rate of four to five per year. Iran can manufacture a wide array of ships, ranging in size from small patrol boats to long range destroyers and min subs. Its naval forces have 30,000 speedboats armed with anti-ship cruise missiles.6Purchase and production of sea mines is estimated to be around 5,000, putting Tehran in 4th place worldwide. 6a The Islamic Republic military industry produces a variety of drones and UAVs.

At present, Tehran is assessed to have the largest deployed ballistic missile & cruise missile forces in the Middle East with around 1,000 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.Tehran is the only country not in possession of nuclear weapons to have produced or flight-tested Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) with ranges exceeding 1242 miles (2,000 kilometers), which are used in the world’s nuclear delivery arsenals from America to Pakistan. Iran’s existing missile forces give it the capability to attack targets in the Gulf and near its border with conventionally armed long-range missiles and rockets, and Tehran  can attack targets in Israel, throughout the region, and beyond with its longest-range ballistic missiles.8

Developments in Iran‘s ballistic missile program have been prohibited under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 since June 2010 (UN Security Council, 2010).

The Islamic Republic has obscured its economy and military industrial complex expenditures through a contrived labyrinth called “Privatization”. 9

Through this touted economic reform program of privatization Khamenei has transferred control of Iran’s Commerce, Industry, Oil, Gas and Public Services Sectors to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.10 In 2011 IRGC officer, Brig. Gen. Rostam Ghasemi became Iran’s Minister of Petroleum. 11 Since 1989, IRGC has had a dominant position in the Iranian economy through lucrative energy, construction, and foreign trade government concessions, which has resulted in monopolizing significant sectors of the economy. Beginning around 2000, the IRGC’s hand further extended into new and far more lucrative sectors of the economy. IRGC became measurably active in the Iranian stock market in 2005. Most significantly, noted in 2000-2007 IRGC was awarded billions of dollars in contracts in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, as well as major infrastructure projects. The IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) started awarding some of the no-bid contracts directly to the IRGC engineering arm, Khatam Al-Anbia. Other times, the link is more indirect. 12

  •  Through privatization Khamenei has transferred control of Iran’s Commerce, Industry, Oil, Gas and Public Services Sectors to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

“Militarization Rather than Privatization: the so-called privatization scheme that enables Tehran to transfer ownership from relatively transparent parts of the public sector to parts of the public sector shielded from public scrutiny. Purchases of the IRGC and its subordinate volunteer militia, the Basij, are conducted by their credit and finance institutions, such as the IRGC and Basij Cooperative Foundation and their subsidiaries,” The Rise of the Subcontractor State: Politics of Pseudo-Privatization In The Islamic Republic Of Iran Kevan Harris Int. J. Middle East Stud. 45 (2013),

               “Since 2009, analyses of Iran have stressed the centralizing takeover of the country’s economy by a single state institution, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. At the same time, however, Iran’s factionalized political elite uniformly advocate for rapid privatization of state-owned enterprises. “Iran’s 20-year outlook plan from the year 2005 seeks to make Iran a “top regional power”. Among other objectives, its current five-year plan seeks to expand bilateral, regional, and international relations, strengthen Iran’s ties with friendly states, and enhance its defense and deterrent capabilities. Commensurate with that plan, Iran is seeking to increase its stature by countering U.S. influence and expanding ties with regional actors while advocating Islamic solidarity. It also seeks to demonstrate to the world its “resistance” to the West. Iran is attempting to secure influence in Iraq and Afghanistan while undermining U.S. efforts by furnishing lethal aid to Iraqi Shia militants and Afghan insurgents.”

 Iran’s Military Power Statement before the Committee on Armed Services United States Senate 14 April 2010 Lt.  General Ronald L. Burgess, Jr., United States Army Director, Defense Intelligence Agency  Page 3

Tehran like North Korea has simply passed on the burden of international sanctions onto its people.

           “ sanctions have had important unintended consequences, including empowering the existing regime, while weakening more moderate, pro-Western Iranians who could be allies of the United States in the future. Paradoxically, economic woes have allowed the government to take greater control over the economy, and to use patronage, favors, and other methods to shield regime allies from the pain of sanctions. On the other hand, those hit hardest by the sanctions seem to be precisely those who otherwise would support a more moderate government in Iran, and who look favorably on the U.S. Reducing the economic and political power that such groups wield is not in the U.S.’ long-term interests as it looks to eventually pursue a normalized relationship with Iran,”

Are Sanctions on Iran Working? A Report by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation June 3, 2013 By Laicie Heeley and Usha Sahay

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been able to invest several billion dollars in its militant proxies such as Hezbollah & Hamas in order to wage war on Israel. As a non country Hezbollah has now one of largest rocket arsenal in the world estimated at 200,000. Hezbollah’s arsenal contains both advanced Scud & cruise missiles.13 As a non country Hezbollah has one of largest rocket arsenal in the world. A Lebanese politician alleged that Hezbollah is in possession of long-range missiles capable of carrying chemical weapons. His comments came after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a recent statement that “Israel will face what it hasn’t faced in the past.” Israel is a small country about the size of the US State of New Jersey Hezbollah can now strike any part of the state of Israel. 14 Israel’s air force chief Major-General Amir Eshel described ”thousands” of fortified military installations created by Hezbollah in residential buildings across Lebanon. Hezbollah leaders have threatened saturation rocket warfare of Israeli cities and a senior Iranian military commander recently bragged to Iranian media Hezbollah’s arsenal can “pinpoint” targets anywhere in Israel. 15 The Iran backed Hamas alone has fired over 12,000 rockets into Israel and has an inventory assortment of about 12,000. 16Tehran’s military leaders openly boast of their Hamas rocket war. Hamas’s most deadly rockets begin the journey to Gaza in Iran. 17  The Fajr-5, which has a 45-mile range and can carry a 200-pound warhead, is produced by Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization. 18 Rocket attacks into Israel are almost a daily occurrence to where most international news agencies do not even report them. 19

“In 2010, the Assad regime transferred to Hezbollah Scud-D missiles, as well as a number of M-600 missiles (that have a 250km range (155mi) and carry a 500Kg warhead) – a clone of the Iranian Fateh-110 is a single-stage solid-propellant, surface-to-surface missile. Syria provided Hezbollah operatives with training on using the Scuds at a base near Damascus,”  

Breaking the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nexus James Woolsey 11th April 2013 – Joint Hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

     “ It is commonly misunderstood just how vulnerable Israel actually. Some 70 percent of its population and 80 percent of its industrial capacity are concentrated in the narrow coastal strip between the Mediterranean Sea and the West Bank. Israel’s population of 7.5 million lives in an area of less than 10,000 square miles including the disputed West Bank, while surrounded by Arab countries with a population of three hundred million and territories 650 times larger than Israel.” 

Former Director of IDF Intelligence; President of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze’evi Farkash

From a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee, “despite international sanctions, Iran has bolstered the Syrian’s Assad regime sending billions of dollars in military and economic aid”. 20 The Islamic Republic have deployed several thousand of its Hezbollah proxy forces and hundreds of its Islamic Revolutionary Guards to Syria. 21 Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei facilitated the  allocation of $5.8 billion in aid to Syria by Iran’s Center for Strategic Research (CSR), which concentrates on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s strategies in six different arenas including Foreign Policy Research, Middle East and Persian Gulf research, and International political economy research. 22 In reality International sanctions have not seriously impacted Tehran. In 2014 Iran’s Former Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi stated, “the current sanctions are nothing compared to the sanctions imposed on Iran during the eight years of war with Iraq, “the sanctions imposed on Iran are not harsh, but we have made them harsh ourselves,”. 23Notwithstanding international sanctions have had a deep-seated impact on Iran’s Armed Forces. Much of Iran’s military equipment is American dating back to the late 1970’s Shah Era, it is antiquated and suffering from lack of repair and updated parts. Tehran’s missiles and cruise missiles forces lack current technology to provide modern lethal accuracy. 24 To understand how Iran’s Armed Forces could change almost overnight with current off the shelf military hardware we only need to look at Pakistan. Military first is also the dominate matrix of Pakistan.

In 2013 The population of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is estimated to be about 180.44 million people, sixty percent of Pakistan’s population is living below poverty line; a World Bank report entitled World Development Indicators (WDI) 2013. The international poverty line is two dollars a day or an income of Rs 200 per day. The report shows that twenty-one percent of Pakistan’s population lives below $1.25 per day. Pakistan’s HDI value and rank Pakistan’s HDI value for 2012 is 0.515 in the low human development category positioning the country at 146 out of 187 countries and territories.25  Pakistani nuclear arsenal is ranked 5th in the world and growing. Islamabad’s nuclear numbers are increasing. Pakistan possesses what is understood to be the world’s fastest-/growing nuclear weapons program, anticipated on present trends to outnumber the British stockpile in under a decade, and possibly the French shortly thereafter. The growth of its plutonium-/production infrastructure underpins this expansion, by some estimates enabling the production of up to thirty warheads per year. The rapid expansion of Pakistan’s plutonium production is also important in this regard. Plutonium undergoes fission more readily than uranium, which means it can assist in making warheads with better yield-/to-/weight ratios. That enables warheads to be manufactured that can fit onto smaller missiles. Creating new roles for nuclear missiles also requires more missiles and therefore more fissile material for the warheads. Plutonium is better able to meet that demand.26 Pakistan is building a large atomic-energy site in Karachi; $9.6 billion nuclear site is expected to be finished in 2019. The complex will feature two Chinese ACP-1000 atomic reactors. China also will supply enriched uranium to run the reactors, according to officials. 27  

Pakistan armed forces have some of the most advanced missile and cruise missiles in the world capable of the pinpoint accuracy. This deadly arsenal is nuclear armed. Pakistan’s nuclear trajectory is, however, undergoing an even more shocking shift, the development of small tactical nuclear weapons, which have become increasingly central to Pakistani nuclear thinking in the past three years. The greater concern is that Pakistan is developing a new generation of short-/range, nuclear-/capable ballistic  and cruise missiles.28 Pakistan’s Deadliest Weapon – Babur Cruise Missile can be equipped with a conventional or atomic warhead and possesses a claimed range of 700 km (430 mi). Pakistan’s Deadliest Weapon – Babur Cruise Missile can be equipped with a conventional or atomic warhead and possesses a claimed range of 700 km (430 mi). The Babur cruise missile was created to prevent radar recognition and permeate enemy’s air defenses. The Hatf-VII Babur cruise missile developed in Pakistan was attributed by the military as having “stealth features”. Babur is a low-flying, terrain-hugging missile, which can strike targets both at land and sea with pinpoint accuracy. The missile is equipped with modern cruise missile technology of Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching and Area Co-relation (DSMAC), it can carry both nuclear and conventional warheads. The missile’s guidance system utilizes a mixture of inertial navigation systems, American GPS satellite guidance and terrain contour matching (TERCOM). More complex variants of the Babur cruise missile are in development. 29  The same military technology Pakistan military utilized to create the lethal nuclear Babur cruise missile will soon be available to Tehran’s military industrial complex.

The Islamic Republic’s foreign policy Persian Chess transits are hardly the product of an untenable mind. Iran has consistently objectively weighted risks and rewards of different courses of procedures through its worldwide paradigm of global progressive activities. Iran’s Geo-strategic Mosaic Military/ Political Doctrine has routed  the International Community ,Washington and dived US Congress.

To date, the UN Security Council has adopted six resolutions in response to Iran’s nuclear program. The council first demanded that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities with the adoption of resolution 1696 in July 2006. Developments in Iran‘s ballistic missile program have been prohibited under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 since June 2010 (UN Security Council, 2010). 30 However, Islamic Republic has continued to undertake research, development, and testing activities.  The Islamic Republic has modified the warhead of its Shahab-3 variants in ways that would make it easier to mount a nuclear weapon. 31The IAEA reports for May 24, 2011 noted seven major areas of concern that covered every major aspect of a nuclear-armed missile program. The 2011 IAEA report stated there is “credible” evidence that “Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device.” 32

The Islamic Republic Iran successfully rendered these issues inert, and the UN International Atomic Energy Agency a mere pawn in its chess -game. How does Washington and the International community become so incompetent with policies and directives void of any reality bases premises? It is as if Tehran’s wars of asymmetrical terrorism are no more than one day affair composed of misunderstandings. There is an incomprehensible ambiguity concerning Tehran’s irregular war operations against the tiny state of Israel. As if Iran’s spending of several billion dollars in asymmetrical warfare is of little note. The thousands of rockets that have pounded Israel on almost a daily basis for over a decade owe their origin to Iran. For Washington they are of no real consequence. Washington and the global community appear totally baffled when Israel verbally retorts against Tehran. Israel in its endeavors to put an end to the raging asymmetrical hostilities is consistently vilified as the evil entity.

Tehran’s  Power Politics has succeeded in destabilizing the Middle East region without the UN or any other major international organizations stopping it. Iran’s Geopolitical mass media tactics buries the International community with an avalanche of deniability and political innocence. As a result, Iran has been able to expand its power and manipulate events in the region free from constraints. Today the Islamic Republic has successfully broken the final restraints that have prevented it from building a nuclear arsenal. As billions of dollars flow into Tehran its armed forces will emerge as military juggernaut. Today the Islamic Republic of Iran stands at the threshold of becoming a nuclear super power.

President Obama like President Clinton in 1994, has had his “Peace for Our Time” moment when President Clinton negotiations supposedly denuclearize North Korea. Pyongyang exploded this fantasy with a series of nuclear tests culminating in a credible threat to make nuclear missile strikes on South Korea, Japan, and the United States in March 2013. 33



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2). Unsanctioned Sanctions The United States’ Real Leverage on Iran By Kimberly Ann ElliottDECEMBER 10, 2013

2a).Squeezing Iran into Submission: Why It Ain’t Gonna Happen That Way 11/12/13 Kimberly Ann Elliott’t-gonna-happen-way

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13). Minister: Hezbollah has over 200,000 rockets

Terror group is capable of hitting any house in Israel, according to home front defense minister BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF October 8, 2013,

14). IBID 13

15). Top Israeli Military Officials Hezbollah has Installed Thousands of Military Bases in Civilian Buildings

by Staff

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Revolutionary Guards commander says his forces helped militant group in Gaza build missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv Saeed Kamali Dehghan 21 November

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33). NTI North Korea






About the Author
spent 13 years with the U.S. Army, half of that time was spent overseas, now retired. Author of several books.