US releases intelligence report on Iran

By Monitoring Desk
Friday – November 22, 2019
WASHINGTON (United States): The United States (US) Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) senior defence intelligence analyst for Iran, Christian Saunders, on Tuesday, presenting an intelligence report on Iranian military capabilities said, “The Iranian military largely relies on three core capabilities: first is ballistic missiles; the second are naval forces capable of threatening navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz; and the third is unconventional capabilities including the use of partners, proxies abroad.”

According to an official statement, Saunders continued: firstly, Iran’s ballistic missiles constitute a primary component of its strategic deterrent. Lacking a modern air force, Iran has embraced ballistic missiles as a long-range strike capability to dissuade its adversaries from attacking Iran.

Iran also has the largest missile force in the Middle East, with substantial inventory of close-range ballistic missiles, short-range ballistic missiles and medium-range ballistic missiles that can strike targets throughout the region as far as 2,000 kilometres away.

Iran will deploy an increasing number of more accurate and lethal theatre ballistic missiles, improve its existing missile inventory and also field new land attack cruise missiles. Iran’s developments of its space launch vehicle program could also serve as the test bed for the development of intercontinental ballistic missile technologies.

Secondly, Iran’s naval capabilities emphasise an anti-access area denial strategy. Benefiting from Iran’s geo-strategic position along the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, Iran’s layered maritime capabilities emphasise asymmetric tactics using numerous platforms and weapons intended to overwhelm an adversary’s naval force.

The full range of these capabilities includes ship- and shore-launched anti-ship cruise missiles, small boats, naval mines, submarines, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), anti-ship ballistic missiles and air defences.

Thirdly, Iran’s use of partners, proxies and unconventional warfare is central to its regional influence and deterrent strategy. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force, Iran’s primary tool for unconventional operations, maintains a wide network of non-state partners, proxies and affiliates throughout the region.

Iran provides a range of financial, political, training and material support to groups which would include Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia militant groups, the Houthis in Yemen, some Palestinian groups, the Taliban and Bahraini Shia militants.

Another point of concern to the US and our allies is Iran’s rapid progress in advancing its UAV capabilities. Iran sees these as versatile platforms for a variety of missions, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and air-to-ground strikes and has steadily expanded its UAV inventory. Iran has deployed various armed and unarmed UAVs to Syria and Iraq for ISR and strike missions.

Iran is also strengthening its integrated air defence systems through domestic production as well as foreign acquisition. Iran is fielding more capable domestically developed surface to air missiles and radar systems, and in 2016, acquired the Russian SA-20C air defence system, which provided Iran with its first capability to defend itself against a modern air force.

In the cyber domain, Tehran views cyberspace operations as a safe, low-cost method to collect information and retaliate against perceived threats, and Iran’s regime is continuing to improve its cyber capabilities.

Iran has “no nuclear weapons” but its nuclear program remains a significant concern for the US.  Earlier this year, Iran began a counter-US maximum pressure campaign, which has included gradually exceeding some of the nuclear related limits stipulated in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In early July 2019, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) first confirmed that Iran had exceeded some of its JCPOA limits. Tehran has threatened to continue ceasing other JCPOA commitments unless it released — unless it receives sufficient sanctions relief.

Iran’s military strategy, is focused on deterrence and is unlikely to change considerably in the near term, but Iran has taken steps towards developing a limited expeditionary capability through its operations in Syria and Iraq.

The IRGC Qods Force and its network of proxies will remain critical to Iran’s military power and Tehran will also improve its conventional forces in seeking new capabilities.

Iran’s current modernisation plans emphasise a broader range of conventional capabilities than those in the past. Iran probably will continue to focus on the domestic development of increasingly capable missiles, naval platforms and weapons, and air defences while it attempts to upgrade some of its deteriorating air and ground capabilities primarily through foreign purchases.

Under United Nations (UN) Security Resolution 2231, Iran is prohibited from procuring most types of conventional weapons systems from abroad.  However, these restrictions are set to expire in October 2020, providing Tehran an opportunity to acquire some advanced capabilities that have been beyond its reach for decades.

As Tehran expands its capabilities in role as both an unconventional and conventional threat in the Middle East, it is more important than ever that the US understands Iran’s military power and the threat it poses to US interests, the allies and the security.