Like Iran's relations with its neighbors and its support of extremism, Iran's conventional military capabilities are key indicators of the character of the regime and the risk it poses to its neighbors. However, Iran cannot be analyzed simply in terms of its current military strength. It must be studied in the broader context of its military politics, the scale of its military expenditures and arms imports, its military demographics, and war fighting capabilities. It is also important to distinguish between Iran's capability to challenge the US and Southern Gulf states in a major regional contingency, and its capacity to intimidate the Gulf states and conduct more limited and less conventional forms of war.
Iran has attempted to reform the overall organization of its military forces since the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's death but with only moderate success. The division of Iran's military forces into "regular" and "revolutionary'' branches has long been a source of internal problems. Rafsanjani recognized this when he was appointed commander-in-chief during the Iran-Iraq War, but Khomeini blocked his efforts from June, 1988 to August, 1989, to merge the Islamic Revolutionary Guards with the Iranian regular army. After the war, Khomeini put a hard-line mullah in a position where he had authority nearly equal to that of Rafsanjani and gave him supervisory authority over the IRGC Minister Ali Shamkhani and IRGC Commander Mohsen Rezaii. These actions reinforced the feuding between Iran's regular forces and the IRGC that helped contribute to Iran's defeat at the hands of Iraq. 309
Rafsanjani and Khamenei seem to have reached a working accord over the control of the armed forces since Khomeini's death. Khamenei automatically became the formal commander of the armed forces when he became leader and president on September 2, 1989. At the same time, Raf