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Iran at War: From Cyrus to Soleimani

The Pahlavi dynasty is one of most short-lived dynasties in Iran. Only two monarchs - Reza Shah and Son and Mohammad Reza Shah - jointly ruled Iran from 1923-1979.

Their common ideology is focused on Western-style modernization and development, which entails suppression of traditional societies and patterns of thought and behavior, and lays foundation for modern Iranian nationalism.

Author's comment: The reign of Reza Shah marked beginning of Iran's transformation from a crumbling empire with indistinct borders to an aspiring sovereign nation-state with well-defined borders.

Reza became first king of an Iranian dynasty rather than a Turkic dynasty, and his regime witnessed emergence of a new social class determined to replace dominance of religion in political life with Iranian nationalism, western-style modernization, and a unified army.

Reza Shah dissolved all independent and semi-independent military units and formed first centralized unified standing army directly controlled by state in history of Iran, which was a paradigm shift.

Iran at War: From Cyrus to Soleimani

The new, unified modern army will be an instrument of nation building, it will control centrifugal and subversive forces, and it will also modernize citizens through conscription, which will increase literacy and technical skills, and most importantly, will arm, train and organize for modern warfare.

The army was only partially successful as an instrument of nation-building and modernization in line with Western development ideologies, yet Reza Shah failed to create an effective modern Iranian approach to conventional warfare and his new army was tested and humiliated and almost destroyed.

Iran's flirting with Nazi Germany in 1930s was viewed with suspicion by other European powers.

The presence of Germans in Iran at start of World War II angered Britain and Soviet Russia, who demanded that neutral Iran be rid of Germans, and when Reza Shah overstretched his country in 1941 compared to Quickly, he succumbed to Anglo-Soviet invasion , ignoring Iranian forces.

The Iranian army cannot repel simultaneous invasion of Russia from north and Britain from south and west. He could have offered more resistance, but this did not happen, and Iranian army collapsed.

Iran at War: From Cyrus to Soleimani

Although many Iranian units and commanders fought with great courage, they were not a cohesive and disciplined military organization, what was reason for failure of Iranian war in 1941?

Author's analysis: as one British historian put it in his analysis of collapse of Iran in 1941,“The big problem Iranians had was that they had not coordinated their ground and air force. experience, mobility of army formations outside capital is weak, there are serious shortcomings in technology, there is no effective coordination of defense throughout vast country.

Command and control are basic, even small decisions must be approved by king, officers cannot act decisively or make wise defensive decisions, many flee battlefield, leaving their soldiers to fend for themselves.

The officer corps was not trained in modern warfare and, faced with overwhelming conventional weapons superiority, did not even consider restarting insurgency.

The officer corps under first Pahlavi ruler was divided into three separate groups, first consisted mainly of cronies of Shah from old Cossack brigades, their military experience was in fight against centrifugal forces or assassinations. Imprisoned by their compatriots, Qajars considered them subversive during constitutional revolution.

At time, some politically awakened people were calling for rule of law, a constitution, and an end to autocratic rule. After Reza Shah seized power, this group added a new qualification:Strong "loyalty" to new monarch, this Loyalty smeared with rampant corruption.

Iran at War: From Cyrus to Soleimani

Reza Shah deliberately gave high-ranking officials huge opportunities for corruption so that they could spend their time enriching themselves rather than threatening his rule, which also distracted them from their own professional demands on how to wage wars.

Reza Shah's obsessive control of military establishment, including promotions, purges and resignations, may seem capricious at first glance, but it's not: it's all about preventing officer corps from becoming a single threat.

As army expanded, an influx of junior officers from provincial cities and rural areas who were not well prepared for a military career but were very political, such as Mohsen Jahansu Mohsen Jahansuz, who attempted a coup because he did not believe in modernization spirit new regime was quite radical.

Finally, as armed forces became more and more technical, there emerged a small group of career officers, often trained abroad, many of whom entered French military academy Saint-Cyr, whose motto was: "They learn to be To subjugate governments”, unfortunately for Iran, these modern officers are not enough to force armed forces to develop in a professional direction.

1936 The British report on Iranian army was devastating, noting that Iranian government had “built an imposing outer wall with no shells, no planes, no them. vehicles they can't fly and machines they don't understand.

Iran at War: From Cyrus to Soleimani

Expensive weapons from western vendors are for prestige, they cost more if not used, instilling fear in any domestic electorate that may have an illusion of grandeur and take up arms against regime, important The point is to contain them, no need to fight with rebels with expensive weapons after fact.

The presence of military power was of paramount importance to Reza Shah, more than actual use on battlefield, since army could be destroyed, these expensive weapons were too valuable.

Armored cars and planes were parked near Tehran where they could be seen, thus politically favoring regime, and by end of his reign, Reza Shah's army "acquired dizzying military prowess."

However, two decades of efforts by Iran's rulers "to create a new professional army, organized along European lines and capable of supporting Iran's serious and expensive regional armed forces, are beyond capacity of economy."

Shah Reza was forced to abdicate in favor of his neurotic and timid son, Mohammad Reza, a father whose military mistakes pale in hindsight to those of his son, whose mistakes were on a larger scale.

"The blinding appearance of military prowess" is a more accurate description of late Iranian imperial army under command of Mohammad Reza Shah.

Iran at War: From Cyrus to Soleimani

Given what happened to father at hands of foreign powers, son is determined to create an effective fighting force, army must be rebuilt, Iran needs a patron, British and Soviets aside; he is outraged by machinations of both men in Iran, which leaves only United States.

Iran was in a precarious political and economic state, new monarch's early military ambitions were hampered by a lack of trust and resources, and since Iran's oil revenues were low at time, restoring army would require direct US assistance.

This allowed Washington to determine what it thought Iran needed from its modest resource base, and much to chagrin of monarchy, US military mission in Iran concluded that imperial army needed to be slowly rebuilt and retrained from scratch: a platoon, for companies and battalions, for brigades and divisions, given low level of literacy and education in country, will be armed with weapons that Iranian personnel, with their meager skills, can handle.

Things changed in late 1960s and early 1970s, carte blanche history of Nixon administration in early 1970s and geopolitical factors that gave king access to almost all US conventional weapons systems are well known.

The Shah's growing confidence, combined with a massive increase in oil revenues and Iran's improved socioeconomic and educational levels, opened floodgates to a dizzying array of American arms since 1973.

By that timethe role of US had shifted from building a base base and training personnel to creating Order of Organizational Battle (ORBAT) and doctrine for a modern high-tech military in 1970s.

Iran at War: From Cyrus to Soleimani

By 1978, Mohammad Reza Shah had most advanced military establishment in what was then called Third World. In 1970s, his main tasks were:

By halting attack of invading Soviet forces until arrival of Western military aid, Iran expects its armed forces not to defeat Soviet invaders, but to bleed them with prolonged resistance.

Watted and won a war using high-tech conventional weapons against Soviet-armed Iraqi army of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime, his most important enemy in region.

The Iranians, like many others, mistakenly believed that Iraqi doctrine was an absolute borrowing of Soviet doctrine, which, as we know from Iran-Iraq war and Gulf War, is not true.

The Iranian doctrine, loosely based on American concept of operations, calls for massive ground and air firepower to target forces in Iraqi lowlands with generous logistical support to advance country.

Joint expeditionary operations involving special forces, marines, air force and navy in Persian Gulf and even in Red Sea to protect against anti-Iranian Arabism, support regimes threatened by radical forces, and, of course, protect oil routes outside Persian Gulf . .

Iran at War: From Cyrus to Soleimani

In fact, by mid-1970s, most of Iran's impressive military hardware was heading either east (Iraq) or south (Persian Gulf).

It is difficult for Imperial Iranian Army to carry out these tasks effectively. These are complex missions that require tremendous operational and tactical flexibility and ability to conduct combined arms and joint combat operations, in latter case, command and coordination of various services is required.

Compatibility refers to ability of different services to work together: "Team Training, Team Battles, Team Wins". Federation is opposite of "single service" approach, which is a syndrome of uncoordinated or shared services.

While describing Imperial Iranian Armed Forces (IIAF) under Mohammad Reza Shah as a "Potemkin village" would go too far, one cannot help but conclude that Conclusion:

By 1978, at peak of its physical strength, it was practically empty, although of course we could not convincingly prove this.

The IIAF has never been involved in high-tech conventional warfare they equip, organize and supposedly train, they fought a short war in Dhofar, Oman.

Iran at War: From Cyrus to Soleimani

The Iranians had first-class logistics, their men received generous support and supplies, they had considerable firepower and used it at will, but tactics of their small units were unimaginative, inflexible and wasteful to soldiers.

However, even without testing in real combat conditions, shortcomings of IAF were evident from mid-1970s until fall of dynasty. The purchase of equipment did not meet training required to operate and maintain it. There are not enough military mechanics. and ground crews.

Although Iranian Air Command had 220 attack helicopters by end of decade, its aircrews lacked marksmanship practice as Iran did not have a live-fire training range.

The focus is still on arms purchases, troop levels and Western-style conventional forces rather than what resource base can handle at time, and arms purchase strategy is haphazard at best, a reflection of Shah and his main supply department. Officer Hassan Tufani General Ana's obsession with high-tech weapons systems that most soldiers cannot use effectively in war.

The essential elements of truly militarily effective professional forces are still missing, and lack of professionalism is due to subjective control of military. This is done so that they do not interfere in political process, as many of Iran's close neighbors do.

Iran at War: From Cyrus to Soleimani

The Shah said: "We have a hard and fast rule in Iran, a complete and unchanging separation of military from politics, and while civilian control of military is a laudable goal, Mohammad Reza Shah's imposition of 'paranoid' control has adversely affected ability armed forces to prepare for war and wage it.

Each regional command was separate from others and king personally interacted with each senior commander, and by adopting this policy of dispersing senior officer corps, shah ensured that they could not train together, and therefore, in war, joint action is ineffective, and services remain separate entities without development of concept of joint arms or joint operations.

After all, even if Iran developed and modernized during last decade of reign of Mohammad Reza Shah, its political, socio-economic and cultural systems could not serve as basis for a high-tech military institution, which was mainly grafted through purchase of latest weapons in large quantities.

Without direct assistance from United States and without a revolution, Iranians would not have been able to use them effectively for at least ten years until end of 1980s, when a cataclysm occurred in 1979 that changed Iran's policy, socio-economic and base culture.


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