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Top Iranian Military Official Boasts About Country’s Defense Capabilities

By Orkhan Jalilov May 14, 2018

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Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards march during a military parade to commemorate the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war in Tehran September 22, 2007. / Reuters

An Iranian senior military official has said that the country’s power in sea, space and land are superior and present a formidable challenge to Iran’s enemies.

“Today, we have acquired a modern arrangement of an immense power in sea, space and on the ground that we have blocked the enemies’ path to military option,” the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ deputy commander, Brigadier General, Hossein Salami said on May 10, according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

“The Zionist regime, America, and their regional allies should understand that Iran is in the better situation today, and it has already prepared itself for the most dangerous threatening scenarios,” Salami said.

His comments came after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on April 30 that the U.S. government is aware of the crushing response it will have to face in case of taking military action against Iran, adding that if certain regional countries confront Iran, “they will definitely suffer blows and defeat.”

Salami’s comments come in the wake of a major announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump on May 8 to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. Additionally, on May 10, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned six people allegedly tied to Iran’s Quds Force, the elite branch of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and three Iranian entities.

A day after Trump’s announcement, IRGC Chief Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari called for boosting Iran’s defense capabilities, saying the U.S. withdrawal proves that America is against Iran’s defense and missile power, and is using Tehran’s peaceful nuclear program just as an excuse. 

The Treasury Department announced it is working with the U.A.E. to disrupt a network that was purportedly transferring millions of dollars to the Quds Force, accusing Iran's central bank of helping the group access U.S. dollars held in foreign banks.

In a tweet posted on May 12, Trump wrote that, "Iran's Military Budget is up more than 40% since the Obama negotiated Nuclear Deal was reached...just another indicator that it was all a big lie. But not anymore!"

The New York Times described the figure as "exaggerated,” but according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Iran’s military expenditures increased nearly 30 percent between 2015 – when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the nuclear deal, was adopted – and 2017.

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, as of 2016 Iran’s gross domestic product was more than $400 billion and its annual defense budget is almost $16 billion. Its total military manpower, including the IRGC, consists of about 520,000 troops. Iran’s military ranks 13 out of 136 countries according to Global Firepower’s 2018 Military Strength Ranking.

Mohammad Hossein Sepehr, the deputy to the Supreme Leader’s representative in the IRGC, said in January that Iran’s military budget is $7 billion, however. Sepehr’s numbers are much less than what President Hassan Rouhani’s government has submitted in his new budget to parliament, where more than $10 billion has been proposed.

Sales of most conventional arms to Iran were banned under U.N. Resolution 1929. Resolution 2231 requires Security Council approval for any transfer of weapons or military technology, or related training or financial assistance, to Iran.

Meanwhile, when Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehgan visited Moscow in February 2016, he reportedly discussed possibly purchasing $8 billion worth of new conventional arms, including T-90 tanks, Su-30 aircraft, attack helicopters, anti-ship missiles, frigates, and submarines. Such purchases would require Security Council approval under Resolution 2231, and U.S. officials have said the United States would use its veto power to deny approval for the sale.

Numerous IRGC and affiliated entities, including the Quds Force have been slated for U.S. sanctions as proliferation, terrorism supporting, and human rights abusing entities. The United States did not remove any IRGC-related designations under the JCPOA, but the EU will be doing so in 2023.