Iran America News Today: Ballistic Missiles, Deadly Drones, A Network of Militias: How Iran Plans to Face America World News
The Gulf country has more than 500,000 active duty personnel, including 125,000 members of its elite revolutionary guard, according to a report from last year from the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Without more than international sanctions and restrictions on arms imports have made it difficult for Iran to develop or buy more sophisticated weapons.
To compensate for the imbalance, Iran has developed “asymmetrical” responses – ballistic missiles, deadly drones and a network of militia allies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, among other things – with the aim of inflicting pain by avoiding the field of traditional battle.
“From a conventional military perspective, they would be absolutely hammered,” said a former British military commander who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. “Their conventional military personnel are very, very scarce and quite old and quite outdated. They’ve spent all their money on asymmetric attack capabilities. In that sense, they are very well prepared.”
Until Wednesday, the strategy had deterred a direct conflict with the United States as tensions have increased since Washington resigned from a multilateral nuclear deal in 2018 and reindeserved sanctions.
Saudi Arabia, a rival of the Gulf, recently witnessed the damage that missile and drone strikes can cause, after an attack on its oil facilities last year briefly halved production and halved to 5% of global supply crude. Riyadh and Washington blamed Iran for the attack, an accusation Tehran denied.
Iran has built the largest arsenal of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Some are based on the oldest designs, widely used “Scud”, with a range of at least 750 km (466 miles). Others, based on the non-Korean No Dong, can reach up to 2,000 km, within reach of Israel or southeastern Europe, according to a report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) last year.
The Revolutionary Guard traverses a fleet of speedboats armed with missiles and dwarve submarines that it can deploy against U.S. military ships or commercial tankers to disrupt the flow of oil into the waters of the Gulf, where Washington says Tehran attacked six tankerships last year.
“If you look at ships, tanks, fighter jets, Iran looks very weak. But if you’re looking at anti-ship missiles, ballistic missiles, UAVs and things out of it, then it seems much more capable,” said Jeremy Binnie, Middle East and Africa editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly.
Iran’s fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used for surveillance or armed with explosives, according to military experts.
“Iran in the Persian Gulf does not need to have large ships, not necessarily frigates and destroyers. Speedboats, gunboats, missile boats can do the job,” said Hossein Aryan, a military analyst who served 18 years in Iran’s navy before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Major General Qassim Suleimani, whose assassination in a US drone strike in Baghdad last week triggered Iranian retaliation Wednesday, was the head of the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force. The group handled clandestine operations outside Iran, working closely with allied military forces and militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Iran’s leaders have promised harsh retaliation for the death of Soleimani, who was a national hero to many Iranians but considered a dangerous villain by Western governments.
He was buried in Iran on Tuesday after tens of thousands mourned him in a ceremony led by Iran’s supreme leader.
U.S. officials have said Soleimani was killed because intelligence forces indicated that the forces under his command planned attacks on U.S. targets in the region, though they have not provided evidence.
Democrats in the U.S. Congress and some of the party’s presidential contenders warned that escalating the conflict could lead to a broader war in the Middle East.
Hezbollah of Lebanon, along with a handful of Iraqi militias closely allied with Iran, have already pledged revenge on US forces for Soleimani’s death.
More than 5,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq along with other foreign forces as part of a coalition that has trained and supported Iraqi security forces against the threat of Islamic State militants.
U.S. troops are also stationed at bases in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, which is home to Al-Udeid Air Base, the largest U.S. military facility in the region. Bahrain is the headquarters of the Fifth Fleet of the United States Navy.