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Iran Command and Control
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    According to Article 110 of the 1979 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the faqih (see Glossary) is empowered to appoint and dismiss the chief of the Joint Staff, the commander in chief of the Pasdaran, two advisers to the SDC, and the commanders in chief of ground, naval, and air forces on the recommendation of the SDC. He is also authorized to supervise the activities of the SDC and to declare war and mobilize the armed forces on the recommendation of the SDC. As faqih, Khomeini, although maintaining the role of final arbiter, has delegated the post of commander in chief to the president of the Republic.

    In addition to specifying the duties of the commander in chief, Article 110 establishes the composition of the SDC as follows: president of the country, prime minister, minister of defense, chief of the Joint Staff of the armed forces, commander in chief of the Pasdaran, and two advisers appointed by the faqih. Other senior officials may attend SDC meetings to deliberate national defense issues. In the past, the minister of foreign affairs, minister of interior, minister of the Pasdaran and his deputy, air force and navy commanders in chief, War Information Office director, and others have attended SDC meetings. The ground forces commander in chief, Colonel Seyyed-Shirazi, is a member of the SDC as a representative of the military arm for the faqih, whereas Majlis speaker Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani is representative of the political arm for the faqih.

    Iran's strategic planning and the establishment of its military and defense policies are the responsibilities of the SDC, which has representatives at operational area and field headquarters to provide political and strategic guidance to field commanders. SDC representatives may also veto military decisions. But reports in 1987 indicated that SDC orders to regional representatives have been modified to limit the heavy casualty rates caused by their inappropriate advice. Inexperienced nonmilitary religious advisers have seen their interference in purely technical matters dramatically curtailed.

    The Urumiyeh reorganization proposals recognized the administrative separation of the services as part of Iran's political reality. Consequently, as of 1987 there were two chains of command below the SDC, one administrative and the other operational. To some extent this dual chain of command existed because the revolutionary government had retained a modified version of the organizational structure of the IIAF, which was modeled on the United States division of powers between the administrative functions of the service secretaries and the operational functions of the secretary of defense and chiefs of staff. In addition, the IRP leaders wanted to limit friction between the regular military and the Pasdaran. According to Speaker Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the service commanders in chief, the minister of defense, and the minister of the Pasdaran were removed from the operational chain to avoid further friction between the two groups.

    In 1987 the Ministry of Defense continued to handle administrative matters for the regular armed forces. The chain of command flowed from senior unit commanders (division, wing, and fleet) to intermediate-echelon service commanders and to service commanders in chief and their staffs. Similarly, the Ministry of the Pasdaran handled the administrative affairs of the Pasdaran. The chain of command flowed from senior unit commanders (operational brigades in the case of combat units) to the ministry staff officers. In the case of internal security units, the chain of command went from local commanders to provincial commanders (who were colonels) and then to provincial general commanders (who were generals).

    The Joint Staff of the armed forces, composed of officers assigned from the various services, the Pasdaran, the National Police, and the Gendarmerie, was responsible for all operational matters. Its primary tasks included military planning and coordination and operational control over the regular services, combat units of the Pasdaran, and units of the Gendarmerie and National Police assigned to the war front. Joint Staff members were also empowered to integrate fully the regular and paramilitary forces in operational planning. The components of the armed forces Joint Staff were modeled on the United States joint and combined staff system.

    Staff members of J1--Personnel and Administration--conducted planning and liaison duties with their counterparts at the ministries of defense, interior, and the Pasdaran. They also supervised budgeting and financial accountability and the preparation of operational budgets for Majlis approval for all the armed services.

    Personnel of J2--Intelligence and Security--carried out operational control for intelligence planning, intelligence operations, intelligence training, counterintelligence, and security for all elements of the armed forces. They also handled liaison with the komitehs (revolutionary committees) for internal security matters and with SAVAMA for foreign intelligence (see SAVAMA , this ch.).

    Staff members of J3--Operations and Training--conducted training, operational planning, operations, and communications. The operational planning and operations sections were further divided into eleven subsections for planning and coordination of the services, including: the Iranian Islamic Ground Forces (IIGF), IIGF Aviation, IIGF Chemical Troops, IIGF Artillery Troops, IIGF Engineer Troops, Iranian Islamic Air Force (IIArF), Iranian Islamic Navy (IIN), IIN Aviation, the Pasdaran, the Gendarmerie, and the National Police.

    Personnel of J4--Logistics and Support--coordinated and provided liaison for the services. Primary responsibility for logistics and supply rested with the services through the ministries of defense, interior, and the Pasdaran; collection and coordination of supplies and coordination of transportation to the war front, however, remained under the control of J4.

    Staff members of J5--Liaison--handled liaison and coordination with nonmilitary organizations and with those military organizations not covered by Joint Staff-level arrangements. Organizations covered by J5 included the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of the Pasdaran, Office of the Prime Minister, Council of Ministers' Secretariat, SDC, Majlis (particularly the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee), the Foundation for Popular Mobilization, the Foundation for the Disinherited, the Foundation for Martyrs (Bonyad-e Shahid), the Foundation for War Victims, and the Crusade for Reconstruction (Jihad- e Sazandegi or Jihad).

    The office of the staff judge advocate provided legal counsel to the Joint Staff and facilitated liaison with the revolutionary prosecutor general and the military tribunal system of the armed forces. The Political-Ideological Directorate (P-ID) staff members operated the political-ideological bureaus of the Joint Staff components and the political-ideological directorates and bureaus of the operational commands. This office also developed and disseminated political-ideological training materials, in close cooperation with the Foundation for the Propagation of Islam and the Islamic associations of the services. Finally, P-ID members conducted liaison duties between the Joint Staff and the Islamic Revolutionary Court of the Armed Forces.

    Members of the Inspectorate General handled oversight functions over the staff components and liaison with the inspectors general of the operational commands. Special Office for Procurements staff members controlled and coordinated procurement of military equipment and supplies from foreign sources through the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Pasdaran, the Ministry of Commerce and Foreign Trade, and the Central Bank of Iran.

    In general, operational area commands were subordinate to the Joint Staff, and each armed force component was subordinate to the operational area command in accordance with its own command structure. In 1987 there was only the Western Operational Area Command, which was responsible for the war with Iraq. Established to provide more effective control of wartime operations, this area may have been the precursor of the planned Northern, Southern, and Eastern Operational Area Commands.

    The Western Operational Area Command was similar in structure to the armed forces Joint Staff except that it was also the lowest operational echelon at which naval forces were integrated into combined-services operations and planning. Although operational area command Joint Staff members exercised operational control over all troops within their area, they were subject to several constraints. Generally speaking, Pasdaran, Gendarmerie, and National Police units operating in an internal security mission, particularly against insurgents, were detached from the operational area command and subordinated to the senior Pasdaran commander in the province in which they were engaged. Air and naval units continued to be partially controlled by their service commanders and responded to the Western Operational Area Command Joint Staff through specialized liaison staffs. The commander of the operational area was further burdened by the presence at his headquarters of an SDC representative and a personal representative of Khomeini. Both of these influential individuals could effectively take any matter over the commander's head to higher authority. In 1987 the SDC representative in the Western Operational Area Command was also the Pasdaran commander for the operational area command, a situation that further complicated the command and control system.

    Below the Operational Area Command were four field headquarters (FHQ), code-named FHQ Karbala, FHQ Hamzeh Seyyed ash Shohada, FHQ Ramadah, and FHQ An Najaf. The FHQs were organized on the model of the Western Operational Area Command except that they did not have naval integration. Subordinate to each FHQ were from three to eight operational sectors. Each operational sector did not necessarily have its own air support unit.

    Additional echelons consisting of a commander and staff drawn from the Joint Staff of the participating FHQs could be created during major offensives. The purpose of these echelons was to overcome logistical shortcomings, concentrate and deploy forces as needed, and combine the services, particularly the naval forces, in offensive operations.

    The reorganization of the command-and-control system could largely be attributed to the Urumiyeh proposals. The war with Iraq naturally increased the level of integration, particularly between regular military officers commanding Pasdaran units and Pasdaran officers commanding regular military units. Logistical problems also came under increasing scrutiny because of the war. The military's weak infrastructure required the centralization of logistics and supply. The sophisticated computer inventory and accounting systems of the ground, air, and naval logistical commands had been sabotaged during the Revolution, and the country lost valuable time while bringing these systems back into service. Improvements in logistical support proved quite rewarding, revealing, for example, that Iran possessed twice as many critical spare parts for its aircraft as were previously believed to exist. Nevertheless, the Iranian armed forces faced a logistical dilemma in deploying supplies to troops at the front; lack of maintenance skills translated into a decreased repair and salvage capacity, creating serious bottlenecks. Vehicles in need of repair had to be transported to repair centers hundreds of kilometers from the front, along stretches of poorly maintained roads and railroads. Under such circumstances cannibalization of damaged equipment for spare parts, particularly for sophisticated equipment, became the norm. Without a solution in sight, Iranian authorities relied on the "down time" between major offensives to resupply units before resuming offensive operations. This practice further prolonged the war, because multiphased operations could not be launched and sustained.

    Data as of December 1987

    NOTE: The information regarding Iran on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Iran Command and Control information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Iran Command and Control should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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