Don’t Worry, Iran’s Military Will Still Be Weak Without Sanctions
War College tackles the myth of an uber-powerful Iranian military
At this point, Pres. Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran seems like a foregone conclusion. Unless something dramatic happens, Iran will soon become a larger part of the international community. Tehran will allow inspectors to investigate its nuclear sites, and America and its allies will lift long-standing sanctions.
Opponents of the nuclear deal, such as Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believe that lifting sanctions will allow Iran to quickly become a major military threat. “I think [Iran] will invest in additional military capability,” Dempsey said during a June visit to Jerusalem.
Yet fears of a militarized Iran are overstated. To be clear, Iran will buy military equipment once the West lifts the sanctions. But the Islamic Republic will spend years rebuilding both its fragile economy and its lackluster military.
Buying equipment takes cash, and Iran doesn’t have a lot of it. When sanctions lift, the Islamic Republic will most likely boost its shattered economy using its oil reserves. But with oil trading below $50 a barrel, it’ll be slow-going.
Iran will also invest heavily in its current military infrastructure. Much of its equipment is ’70s-era American hardware from when the Shah was in power. It takes a lot of cash and creative engineering to keep it all running.
On top of that, the regional powers surrounding Iran, such as Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, are light-years ahead of Iran in terms of military spending and equipment. Iran’s conventional military is large, but has severe limits on its ability to project power beyond its borders. That’s a job for the Quds Force — commandos who operate far more discreetly.
But Iran’s army, navy and air force? All of the above factors will conspire to keep the Iranian military weak for years to come.