According to the Global Fire Power website, which uses CIA data, Iranian military strength is hardly as ominous as it appears from Iranian propaganda press releases.
Iranian active military strength stands at 545,000 troops, and its reserve forces number 650,000. And while its population total is over 77 million compared to Israel’s 7 million (less than 10% of Iran’s), Israel’s defense budget is greater – $16 billion vs. Iran’s $9 billion. And while Israel’s military manpower stands at 187,000 in active duty, and 565,000 in reserves, it is far better trained and motivated. Moreover, Iran has 3,230 tanks against Iran’s 1,793, and 1,964 aircraft vs. Iran’s 1,030. The Iranian air force is rather weakened by its older model fighters, such as the F-5, which the Shah received from the U.S. and which lacks spare parts. The same is true for their tanks, which rely on the Russian T-72, and older model tanks. Regardless of the size of the Iranian army infantry or its armor, it is highly unlikely that Iran will be able to move those against Israel, giving the distances involved.
To compensate for its inability to compete with either the U.S or Israeli air forces, Iran developed a missile industry, producing missiles that allegedly could hit all points in Israel (while stockpiling nearly 45,000 missiles with Hezbollah in Lebanon). Israel’s civilian population has demonstrated, during recent wars in Lebanon and Gaza (2006 with Hezbollah and 2008-2009 with Hamas) that it can withstand massive missile attacks on its cities. Moreover, Israel has advanced and put into operation anti-missile missiles, such as the “Arrow” and “Iron Dome,” which the Iranians lack. Conversely, the Iranian civilian population was traumatized by the eight-year war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (1980-1988) during which Saddam’s army lobbed Scud missiles on Iranian cities that killed thousands. The regime in Iran failed to build air-raid shelters then, and have done little to lessen the vulnerability of Iran’s civilians today. An Israeli or American retaliatory attack on Iran would expose Iran’s civilian populations to death and destruction and cause the public to rebel against the mullah regime, a possibility the leaders of the Islamic republic must take into account.
Belligerent proclamations against Israel and threats to “wipe the Jewish State off the map” conform to the best in psychological welfare — something which the Iranian regime excels at. You-Tube videos show supposedly successful launchings of long-range missiles and a new submarine, all aimed to deter Israel and the U.S. from attacking Iran. The Financial Times, reporting from Iran on August 20, 2010, quoted Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s defense minister, as saying that “the Qiam 1 surface-to-surface missile” had “new technical features and unique tactical capabilities, and an improved targeting system.” The underlying message from Tehran is that “we have a strong military and if you attack us, we’ll destroy you.” Intimidation by threats is, when carefully analyzed, an attempt to ward off an attack by those they know to be stronger while masking their weakness. Yet, Israel and the West take Iranian propaganda at face value, and thus Iran appears a lot stronger than it is in reality.
The Iranian army has been significantly repressed by the mullahs. The top military echelon was decimated by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and those who escaped death, torture, and forced “reorientation” escaped to the West. The role of the theocratic regime’s Revolutionary Guards is to keep an eye on the army’s generals. Advancement is reserved only for those who show loyalty to the regime. Personal initiative is seen as dangerous by officers and soldiers alike. On July 2009, 36 officers who intended to participate in demonstrations against the regime in their uniforms were arrested, and most likely liquidated. The Guardian newspaper reported, “The officers intended the gesture to show solidarity with the demonstrations against last month’s presidential election result, which was won by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but which has been clouded by allegations of mass fraud.”
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