The confrontation between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran every day takes more pronounced military outlines. The parties demonstrate increased activity at points of potential armed conflict in the Middle East, primarily in the Persian Gulf zone. The US Navy’s strike force led by the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln (the group includes, in particular, the Arlington amphibious landing dock), B-52 strategic bombers (deployed to the El Udeid “in Qatar). The Pentagon is also considering the possibility of strengthening its forces near the Strait of Hormuz (connecting the Persian Gulf with the Arabian Sea) with Patriot air and missile defense batteries already deployed in Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
About one fifth of the oil consumed in the world and more than 30% of the Iranian budget revenues pass through this strait. The stakes for Washington and Tehran, as well as for many of their other allies and partners in the region, are too high. This gives the conflict growing between them a special drama, which is increasingly acquiring a fatal character.
A senior representative of the US Department of Defense earlier reported on the preparation by the administration of President Donald Trump of an “updated military plan,” which provides for sending up to 120,000 US troops to the Middle East in the event Iran’s attack on US forces in the region or “acceleration of nuclear weapons by Tehran.” On this with reference to its sources on May 13, the newspaper The New York Times reported. The publication notes that the Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan presented this plan at a meeting of Trump’s main assistants on May 9. Among those present at the meeting were presidential adviser on national security John Bolton , director of the CIA, Gina Haspel , director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, General Joseph Dunford . According to the NYT, some plans for further US actions in the Iranian direction were “detailed” and the most confrontational scenario envisaged “the deployment of 120,000 military, which would take weeks or months.”
Later, Trump personally denied the NYT publication, calling it “fabricated.” At the same time, the American president pointedly added that, if necessary, he would send much more troops to the region, something that the New York edition indicated.
Iran speaks of the inability of the United States to make “total war” against the Islamic Republic. Tehran exudes confidence that the Americans are engaged only in “psychological warfare” and launched a parallel economic war against the Shiite power. They believe that with all its military might the United States in the foreseeable future is not ready for open armed conflict with Iran.
Is it really so difficult to determine with certainty? In any case, excessive self-confidence for Iranians is now fraught with great surprises. Meanwhile, the Iranian leadership is aware that the external pressure exerted on Iran is of unprecedented nature and should be prepared for a long and tough defense, including on the economic front.
The expansion of US sanctions has led to a worsening economic situation in a country that is now more alarming than it was during the war with Iraq (1980-1988), said President and Head of the Government of the Islamic Republic Hasan Rouhani last week .
“During the war years (with Iraq) we had no problems with banks, oil sales, imports and exports, there was only an embargo on arms purchases,” said Rouhani.
Introduce a breakthrough in the confrontation with Iran, if necessary – and military measures, in the White House are set up like never before. And in this, the American administration, with an excessive presence of “hawks” there, to which President Donald Trump himself can be attributed, is actively “driving” Israel and Saudi Arabia. The anti-Iranian “trio” as a whole is eager to achieve serious success in the Iranian arena until the autumn of 2020, the next presidential election in the United States.
A concrete task is being put in the form of the destruction of the Iranian economy, its financial collapse with the concomitant provocation of social riots in Iran. At the same time, one of the main targets for the American-Israeli-Saudi trio is the stronghold of Iran’s statehood after 1979 – the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC, Sepah). Since April 8, this elite militarized structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been added by the United States to the list of foreign “terrorist organizations”. Arab monarchies have not yet supported this initiative of the United States (1), but as early as 2016, they stuck a “terrorist label” on Tehran’s closest ally in the region, the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah. The day is not far when a similar decision, if a more or less serious collision occurs in the Persian Gulf or on the approaches to it, the Saudi camp can also take on the IRGC.
Iranian “Sepah” is at the forefront of the “psychological war” with the United States and, with all the conviction of the Iranian political leadership that the Americans are “openly bluffing,” they are preparing for any scenarios. After entering the US terrorist list, to which Tehran immediately responded with a “mirror step”, adding the US Central Command (the Middle East is in the area of responsibility) to its “black register”, the commander changed to the IRGC. Instead of Mohammad Ali Jafari on April 21, Brigadier General Hossein Salami became one . Personnel Decision of Ayatollah Seyid Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in direct submission of which is Sepah, indicates the strengthening of the hard line in the Corps itself. In previous years, being the second person in the IRGC, Hossein Salami, with his statements, personified precisely the rigidity and uncompromisingness in the fight against the USA and the “Zionist regime” (Israel). Any armed conflict with the United States will affect the Sepah in the first place, given the finding of the protection of land, air and sea borders in the Office of the Corps, as well as overseeing the Iranian missile program.
The IRGC is a powerful force militarily. In the revolutionary for Iran in 1979, it was created on the basis of groups of Islamic committees. The founders of the Islamic Republic of Iran characterized the IRGC as a unique education that performs not only military, but also religious and political functions, which is a true offspring of the Islamic revolution.
It was the IRGC that became an armed instrument for asserting Iranian religious and political interests in the Middle East. Inside the country, the IRGC began its journey in the 1980s. from the struggle against various left-wing opposition groups, which at that time were trying to turn the revolution on the socialist path. The formation of the IRGC was most actively involved in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980–1988, which became a real combat debut of Sepah. It was during the protracted conflict with Saddam’s Iraq that the IRGC was formed into a powerful armed force. After 1988, war veterans took a firm place both in the highest command posts of the IRGC, and in the political leadership of Iran.
In accordance with Article 150 of the Constitution of Iran, the Corps is designed to protect the gains of the Islamic revolution. The Law on the Armed Forces of Iran, adopted in 1987, in particular, provides for “the provision of military assistance to Islamic nations or disadvantaged peoples, regardless of their Islam, at their request in order to protect their territory from attack or capture by the aggressor.” attention is the last part of the phrase about helping. This is perhaps more true of the IRGC than the Iranian army, which constitute a single combat fist, but structurally separated from each other.
As noted above, the IRGC directly reports to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. The corps consists of the main command, joint headquarters, ground, aerospace and naval forces. About 125 thousand soldiers and officers serve in it.
The general management of the corps is carried out by the commander through the deputies. The operational management of the IRGC forces is entrusted to the joint headquarters, which consists of 13 departments. As part of the IRGC, there is the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Integrated Headquarters of the IRGC, consisting of operational, technical and information departments engaged in strategic, operational and tactical reconnaissance, including the use of modern radio-technical means.
The composition of the land forces of the IRGC includes forty-one divisions, including 23 infantry, 3 armored, 2 mechanized, 2 motorized infantry and one airborne. There are 1,500 medium tanks and 1,600 armored combat vehicles, 3,500 artillery systems, 500 MLRS units, more than 1,000 anti-tank weapons, about half of which are anti-tank systems.
The most effective and at the same time prepared for operational deployment outside of Iran as part of the IRGC, are the Special Purpose Forces (CCH) “Kods” under the command of the legendary General Kasem Suleymani . This is the combat “tip” of the IRGC, which has distinguished itself in recent years on anti-terrorist fronts in Iraq and Syria. Codes is also on a special account in the “black lists” of the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, who consider it their worst enemy and potentially the first Iranian military unit they may encounter in the event of a large-scale war in the region.
The CodS “Kods” command, through its headquarters, manages the activities of eight regional directorates, the special operations department, the information and analytical department, the logistics division and other internal services. The main functions of the special forces are military intelligence, conducting special operations outside the country, maintaining contacts with Shiite armed formations in other countries of the world.
There are no exact numbers for this division of Sepah. We can talk about several thousand Kods fighters. These are well-trained military personnel, specially selected from the best soldiers and officers of the IRGC, as a rule, having experience of military operations in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Yemen.
The Aerospace Forces (ACS), which include rocket forces (6 brigades) and aviation groups (11), operate as part of the IRGC. Over 70 combat aircraft (fighter and attack aircraft), auxiliary aircraft (up to 300 units), helicopters are in service.
The head of the ACS of the IRGC is the commander, who operatively submits to the chief of the Joint Headquarters of the IRGC and, through him, to the commander of the Corps, chief of the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces and the supreme commander.
AKS of the IRGC is intended for aviation support of ground forces actions. According to the military doctrine of the IRI, the air force component of the Corps must be ready to perform the following tasks: launching missile strikes at ground, air and naval groups of enemy troops, its military and economic facilities, and rendering direct support to the land forces and naval forces of the country.
The naval forces of the Corps carry out the functions of the coast guard, but in the event of a military conflict they can operate at a considerable distance from the borders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The navy of the IRGC includes combat formations and units, maintenance units, are armed with small and ultra-small submarines, frigates, corvettes, missile and torpedo boats, landing ships, minesweepers, auxiliary vessels. The Sepah Navy has its own naval aviation, as well as three brigades of marines with a total of 5,000 men and four missile brigades with anti-ship missile systems.
The Iranian “Sepah” is directly opposed by the US Central Command (CENTCOM), created in 1983, one of the six geographical combat commands of the United States Armed Forces, which are groups of troops (forces) that solve a wide range of tasks and include formations, units and subunits, allocated two or more types of aircraft. Commander CENTCOM, like his “Iranian counterpart” at the head of the IRGC, was also recently updated: since March 28, he has been General Kenneth MacKenzie .
The command is responsible for planning operations and managing American forces in the event of hostilities in the Middle East and Central Asia. CENTCOM’s area of responsibility includes 20 states: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and the basins of the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the western Indian Ocean.
CENTCOM headquarters is located at MacDill Air Base (Tampa, Florida). Advanced command and control bodies are located in Qatar, at the Es Salia military base. The tasks of the headquarters include: continuous monitoring and evaluation of the military, political and economic situation in the countries of responsibility, planning and directing operations involving the troops (forces) assigned to the Central Command, organizing their operational and combat training, including joint exercises with the armies countries of the region, work to improve the military infrastructure and the creation of stocks of weapons, military equipment and materiel.
The CENTCOM Commander is under the operational control of five commanders: ground forces (headquarters at Fort McPherson, Virginia), air force (Shaw, South Carolina), navy (Manama, Bahrain), marines (Camp Smith, Hawaii), special operations forces (MacDill, FL).
The central command does not subordinate permanent troops (forces). In the event of a crisis situation in the area of responsibility and the adoption by the US leadership of a political decision on the use of armed forces, CENTCOM commanders are transferred in advance to prepared formations and units from all types of aircraft. At the same time, the necessary composition of the group of forces and means is determined depending on the type of the upcoming operation (mainly ground or mainly air), its scale.
The organizational structure of the formations and units of the ground forces and other types of armed forces allocated to the Central Command of the US Armed Forces is not static and depends on the situation and the nature of the tasks, as well as the arrival of new weapons.
The command has in the countries of the zone of responsibility an extensive network of military bases, command posts, communications centers and warehouses. Currently, troops (forces) and facilities subordinate to the Central Command are located in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Pakistan, some countries of Central Asia, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. CENTCOM directs military operations by the US military and its allies in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
The forward ground command post CENTCOM is located in Kuwait. In Qatar, the Air Operations Control Center operates at Al-Udeid Air Force Base. It is considered the main tool for the multivariate planning of the combat use of aviation in the operational-strategic depth in cooperation with mobile and expeditionary forces, including the troops of the US allies. There are command posts in Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait to support aviation operations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility. In Kandahar (Afghanistan) is a tactical center of combat control of aviation.
The basis of the naval component of the Central Command is the 5th operational fleet of the US Navy and attached to it units and groups of warships, auxiliary vessels. The fleet’s area of responsibility includes the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the northwestern Indian Ocean. If necessary, expeditionary headquarters are created for the operational management of ship groupings.
In peacetime, as a part of the 5th fleet, as a rule, there are up to 20 warships, including the aircraft carrier at the head of the strike group, the amphibious assault group, and mine-sweeping forces. In the opinion of the American command, such a combat force of the association allows it to respond quickly to crisis situations arising in the region. The port of Manama (Bahrain) is used for the basing and temporary parking of warships and auxiliary vessels. When conducting maritime operations in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, the US Navy in a number of cases act together with the ships of the allied countries: Great Britain, Australia, Italy, Spain, Canada, Germany, France.
The current deployment of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln is an example of CENTCOM’s rapid response to changes in the military-political situation in its area of responsibility.
Recent events around the Strait of Hormuz may indicate that Iran’s geopolitical opponents are looking for convenient reasons to raise the degree of confrontation in the region. It requires, in particular, a weighty argument for the long-term stay of the US Navy carrier group in the Persian Gulf.
Saudi authorities said on May 13 that the two oil tankers of the kingdom were among the ships subjected to a “sabotage attack” off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Official Riyadh called the incident “an attempt to undermine the security of global oil supplies.” Representatives of the UAE, in turn, reported that four commercial ships on May 12 suffered from “sabotage” near the Emirate of Fujairah, one of the world’s largest bunker sites located in the immediate vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz. The authorities of the Emirates did not provide details about the nature of the “sabotage” or who was behind it, but indicated the absence of victims and injuries in connection with the incident and the continued operation of the port of Fujairah in normal mode.
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, said that one of two attacked Saudi ships was on their way to loading oil from the Ras Tanura port for delivery to Saudi Aramco customers in the United States. The attack did not lead to casualties or oil spills, but caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels, the report said, transmitted by the state Saudi Press Agency. Commercial and shipping sources identified Saudi ships as owned by the Kingdom’s National Shipping Company large-capacity tanker for the carriage of goods Amjad and oil tanker Al Marzoqah.
Iran’s reaction to a possible provocation was promptly followed. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called the incidents on tankers off the coast of Fujairah “alarming and terrible.” However, the Iranian Foreign Ministry demanded a thorough investigation of what happened off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, such incidents “have a negative impact on the safety of maritime transport.” The Islamic Republic, however, calls on regional countries to “be vigilant against the destabilizing conspiracies of foreign agents.”
Meanwhile, the US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on May 16, embarked on combat duty in the northern part of the Arabian Sea, two weeks earlier than previously thought. On this, referring to his sources in the Pentagon, Fox News broadcast on the eve of the television station. In addition to dozens of F-18 Super Hornet multi-role fighters, hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles are on board the other warships of the attack force accompanying the flagship Abraham Lincoln. The interlocutors of the channel reported that they were ready to strike if any regional forces attacked the United States.
The commander of the fifth operational fleet of the US Navy, Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, said on May 9 that the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln could be sent to the Persian Gulf and it was “not limited in its actions.” According to the American naval commander, US military intelligence data “demonstrate threats from Iran,” and, if necessary, the aircraft-carrying cruiser will be sent to the bay.
(1) On April 9, the Saudi government welcomed the decision of the American administration, calling it a “serious and practical step in the fight against terrorism.”