Iran: Iran's Military Forces in Transition: Conventional Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Byman, Dan | The Middle East Journal, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

Iran: Iran's Military Forces in Transition: Conventional Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction


Byman, Dan, The Middle East Journal


Iran's Military Forces in Transition: Conventional Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction, by Anthony H. Cordesman. Westport, CT: Praeger Press, 1999. x + 419 pages. Bibl. to p. 426. Index to p. 432. $69.50.

Iran's Military Forces in Transition is a useful book that provides a comprehensive review of Iran's military forces, programs, and defense industries. While the author also offers insights into Iranian politics today, the emphasis is clearly on the status of Iran's military and its future prospects. Although the writing and organization of the book detract, at times, from the quality of the analysis and research, Cordesman's work will be helpful to analysts of Iran and of the regional military balance.

Cordesman's work helps the reader make sense of the myriad trends that have shaped Iran's forces and strategic thinking since the end of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). In the past decade, Iran's forces have become slowly, if unsteadily, more professional, shedding the revolutionary credo and lack of discipline that led to so many disasters during the war with Iraq. At the same time, Iran's force structure has shifted. Although Iraq remains the greatest threat to Iran's security, Tehran has focused its procurement on developing capabilities that will improve its performance against the United States and the latter's Gulf allies. Thus, Iran has acquired anti-ship missiles and submarines, and has upgraded its ballistic missile, mine warfare, and other capabilities that could pose a threat to US forces and improve Iran's operations in contingencies against the Gulf states. Iran has also sought to augment its weapons of mass destruction program, both due to the dangerous neighborhood it lives in and because these weapons offer a potent offset to US conventional dominance.

Cordesman's work is also quite useful in debunking any fears of a conventional Iranian threat. Low budgets and limited suppliers (whose systems neither match each other nor Iran's older, Western equipment) have kept Iran's forces weak. The author also explores the lack of unity between Revolutionary Guard and regular forces, which hinders Iran's ability to organize, train, equip, and employ its military forces. In addition, Cordesman mentions the lack of ideological unity and of coherent concepts of operations, as well as other intangible problems which hinder Iran's military effectiveness. …

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