Annual Report on Military Power of Iran (Executive Summary)

January 1, 2014

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile
  • Military

Mentioned Suspect Entities & Suppliers: 

Iran has not substantively changed its national security and military strategies over the past year; however, Tehran has adjusted some of its tactics to achieve its enduring objectives. President Hasan Ruhani's international message of moderation and pragmatism is intended to support these objectives: to preserve the Supreme Leader's rule, counter Western influence, and establish Iran as the dominant regional power. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains unchallenged atop Iran's power structure as both the political-spiritual guide and the commander in chief of the armed forces.

Iran's military doctrine is defensive. It is designed to deter an attack, survive an initial strike, retaliate against an aggressor, and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities while avoiding any concessions that challenge its core interests. Of note, Tehran's strategic messaging about its military capabilities through the mass media has been less strident since Ruhani took office. For example, widespread publicity of major military exercises, previously the norm, has been minimal.

However, Iran's covert activities appear to be continuing unabated in countries such as Syria and Iraq. Despite Iran's public denials, for example, other information suggests Iran is increasingly involved, along with Lebanese Hizballah, in the Syria conflict. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps- Qods Force (IRGC-QF) remains a key tool of Iran' s foreign policy and power projection, in Syria and beyond. IRGC-QF has continued efforts to improve its access within foreign countries and its ability to conduct terrorist attacks.

Since the Iran-Iraq War, Tehran has placed significant emphasis on developing and fielding ballistic missiles to counter perceived threats from Israel and coalition forces in the Middle East and to project power in the region. Iran has a substantial inventory of missiles capable of reaching targets throughout the region, including Israel, and the regime continues to develop more sophisticated missiles. Iran has publicly stated it may launch a space launch vehicle by 2015 that could be capable of intercontinental ballistic missile ranges if configured as a ballistic missile.

Iran continues to develop technological capabilities that could be applicable to nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, which could be adapted to deliver nuclear weapons, should Iran's leadership decide to do so. On 24 November, 2013, Iran agreed to a Joint Plan of Action (JPA) with the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) that included enhanced monitoring of Iran's nuclear facilities and a six-month halt to enrichment activities over 5 percent and further advances on the IR-40 Heavy Water Research Reactor. In public statements, some Iranian officials have minimized the JPA' s impact on the nuclear program.

Iran continues to develop its anti-access and area denial (A2AD) capabilities to control the Strait of Hormuz and its approaches. Tehran is quietly fielding increasingly lethal symmetric and asymmetric weapon systems, including more advanced naval mines, small but capable submarines, coastal defense cruise missile batteries, attack craft, and anti-ship ballistic missiles.