August 23, 2006

The Iranian War Machine

I did some Google searches for "Iran" and "military build-up" and found lots of documents ... almost all from the mid-1990s.

If Iran is really out to conquer the region, it would need tanks, lots and lots of tanks, plus air cover, since tank armadas are dead ducks in the open desert. So, is Iran building up its tank fleet and air force preparatory to its upcoming blitzkriegs? Here's what the Center for Strategic and International Studies says about Iran:

"Most of Iran's military equipment is aging or second rate and much of it is worn. Iran lost some 50-60% of its land order of battle in the climatic battles of the Iran-Iraq War, and it has never had large-scale access to the modern weapons and military technology necessary to replace them. It also has lacked the ability to find a stable source of parts and supplies for most of its Western-supplied equipment, and has not have access to upgrades and modernization programs since the fall of the Shah in 1979."

Here is Iran's tank fleet, according to a site called MILNET:

Tank Type Count Manufacturer
M-47/48 150 U.S. (*)
M-60A1 150-160 U.S. (*)
Chieftain Mark 3/5s 100 U.K. (*)
T-54/55 250 Russia/Soviet
T-59 150-250 (35-?) Russia/Soviet
T-72/S 480 Russia/Soviet
T-69II 150-250 ? Russia/Soviet
Zulfiqar 100 Iranian made from T-72 and M48 pieces
Total Estimate 1600
* delivered prior to the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979

A reader comments:

I believe the name of the Iranian-made main battle tank, the Zuliqfar, literally means "burning torment" and is perhaps best rendered colloquially as "flaming coffin" or "death trap."

And here are other regional powers:

Country Main
Battle Tanks
Israel 4300 Modernized, well maintained
Egypt 4300 Fairly Modernized, maintained
Syria 4600 Fair maintained
but much older technology
Iran 1565
(1000) *
Mostly older technology, maybe one to three full divisions of modern equipped
Jordan 1217 Fair maintenance, old technology
Saudi Arabia 1055 Well Maintained, modernized regularly
Lebanon 315
Well aged, poorly maintained,
single battle ready only

So, it looks like Iran would match up pretty well with mighty Jordan.

And then there's the Iranian Air Force, which resembles the raw materials for a nostalgic air show more than a war-winning military arm:

Aircraft Made in Count Mission Comments
U.S. 50 Air Defense Poorly maintained, Little/no AAM, gun only
MiG-29 Russia 6 Air Defense Highly capable, heavy maintenance costs, fuel hungry
F-7M China 35 Air Defense Fairly modern and capable
F-4D/E U.S. 260 Attack/Defense
Very poorly maintained, parts not available to Iran
some in ME market
F-5E/FII U.S. 260 Attack/Defense Very poorly maintained,
parts not available from U.S., some in ME market
Su-24 Soviet 30 Attack Some parts purchases with Russia have taken place, these may be the best maintained of all Iranian aircraft
Su-25K Soviet 7 Attack Seized during Gulf War (Iraq inexplicably flew them out)
May be operational but doubtful
Mir F-1 France 24 Attack/Defense Seized during Gulf War (Iraq inexplicably flew them out)
May be operational but doubtful

The theoretical bulk of the Iranian air force (520 planes) is made up of F4s, which first flew in 1958, and F5s, which first flew in 1959. If any are still flying, the rest must be used as sources for the cannibalizing of of parts.

As for the F-14s, which were the pride of the Shah's air force:

"One report suggested that the IRIAF can get no more than seven F-14s airborne at any one time"

So they've got 6 good MiG-29s, 30 Soviet Su-24s, and 35 pretty good Chinese planes.

In contrast, Israel, for example, has "555 combat aircraft (90 probably stored)."

And, of course, Iran is missing most of the components of post-1979 air supremacy, such as AWACS-style flying command posts and stealth planes.

Look, Iran was deterred, fairly successfully, by Saddam Hussein's post-1991 House of Cards regime. That's one of the reasons the President's better-informed father and the younger, more sensible Dick Cheney left it stand in 1991.

What the Iranians have been investing in are, intelligently enough, missiles and, presumably, nuclear weapons development, which makes a lot of sense if their military strategy is to deter attack. Iran hasn't started a war with anybody since, at least, the middle of the 19th Century.

Or, as many theorize, they might be intending to attack the world so suicidally that they get nuked so they can get their hands on those 72 virgins faster. I wouldn't know.

Why baseball fans are more rational than foreign policy mavens: In these days during the apparent run-up to a war with Iran, foreign policy commentary appears to be largely the obsession of men with the irrational team-loving emotional instincts of baseball fans. So, why aren't they spending their time thinking about baseball rather than promoting war? It appears they are just too innumerate to be baseball fans.

For example, anti-NY Yankee baseball fans rightly feared George Steinbrenner's acquisition of Bobby Abreu, which has helped spark the Yankees' surge into first place. They knew roughly how much money Steinbrenner can spend due to the Yankee's enormous market, and they knew Abreu's impressive career on-base percentage.

In contrast, most of the Iranian fear-mongering takes place in a mental world devoid of numbers. That Iran's GDP is about 1/20th of ours, that their installed base of post-1978 aircraft and tanks is paltry, that they have virtually no offensive capability to seize territory where the local population doesn't support them, and that they have been spending a no higher percentage of their limited GDP on their military than we spend (and possibly less), suggests Iran is not a major threat to conquer the Middle East. This is as if bored New York sportswriters, following, say, a collapse by the large market Boston Red Sox, got into a frenzy over the long term threat to Yankee dominance posed by the small-market Kansas City Royals. Well, it wouldn't happen on the sports pages, because baseball fans know the numbers and the pundits would get laughed at by their own readers.

Much of what we read these days about the Iran threat is is driven by boredom because of a lack of more credible challenges. The tedious truth is that the Great Game of nations is going through a dull patch of relative global peace right now because American military dominance (about 49% of the human race's military spending) is so overwhelming, and most of the great empires are gone, that there isn't too much organized slaughter going on right now by historical standards. So, a lot of foreign policy pundits are puffing up Iran as a threat to America with all the zeal and imagination that Don King brought to puffing up Chuck Wepner, a full liquor time salesman and part time boxer known as "The Bayonne Bleeder," as a threat to Muhammad Ali in their 1975 fight.

To carry on the baseball analogy, the current foreign policy punditry situation would be as if the New York sportswriters spent half their time writing not about the Yankees but about how their beloved San Francisco Giants are in danger from the San Diego Padres now that the Giants' Barry Bonds has returned to mortal human statistics, and how the Yankees ought to forfeit their own American League games so they can instead fly down to San Diego and beat the Padres for the Giants in the National League.

Also by Steve Sailer:

The Middle-Eastern Powder Thimble

The Decline in the Need for Global Force Projection

Why doesn't the Kurdish "state-within-a-state" justify war too?

The Logic of Nuclear Genocide

Hezbollah's Schmutzkrieg!

War: The Human Race Just Isn't Trying Very Hard Anymore

How many aircraft carriers does the Islamic World have?

The small size of the Iranian economy and military

By the way, having somehow survived the May Day Day-Without-a-Mexican threat, Dennis Dale at Untethered Live-Blogged the August 22nd Iranian Apocalypse.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

if your spurious analysis is true Isreal should please strike Iran to rout them out without coveting American support.