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Immortal, Updated Edition

Immortal, Updated Edition: A Military History of Iran and Its Armed Forces

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Immortal, Updated Edition
    Book Description:

    Immortal,now in an updated paperback edition, is the only single-volume English-language survey of Iran's military history. CIA analyst Steven R. Ward shows that Iran's soldiers, from the famed "Immortals" of ancient Persia to today's Revolutionary Guard, have demonstrated through the centuries that they should not be underestimated. This history also provides background on the nationalist, tribal, and religious heritages of the country to help readers better understand Iran and its security outlook. Drawing on a wide range of sources including declassified documents, the author gives primary focus to the modern era to relate the buildup of the military under the last Shah, its collapse during the Islamic revolution, its fortunes in the Iran-Iraq War, and its rise from the ashes to help Iran become once again a major regional military power.

    eISBN: 978-1-62616-065-1
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. Introduction: The Iranian Phoenix
    (pp. 1-9)

    IN 1978 IRAN AND ITS ARMED FORCES seemed to stand at the peak of their power and prestige in the modern era. Bountiful oil revenues and a strategic position overlooking the vital Persian Gulf oil export routes boosted Iran’s standing in the world. Cold War competition made Iran a recipient of Western and Soviet arms and attention. Iran had just passed Egypt, a far more populous country, in having the largest armed forces in the Middle East. In fact, the Iranian military was outpacing some large European countries in the quantity and sophistication of its equipment. Iran was the only...

  6. 1 Heritage of Greatness, Legacy of Loss
    (pp. 11-39)

    THE FIRST GREAT PERSIAN DYNASTY, the Achaemenids, was a diverse but powerful empire that lasted for just over two centuries and provided inspiration for subsequent Iranian polities down through the ages. In the late ancient and medieval eras, southwest Asia witnessed the rise of the Parthian and Sassanian dynasties, whose constant competition with the leading Western empires is viewed in modern Iran as a source of cultural pride. These centuries also included some of the darkest pages of Iran’s past, including the fall of the empires and the destruction caused by the later Mongol invasions. Iranian perseverance, resourcefulness, and adaptability...

  7. 2 Powerful Predecessors: The Safavids and Nader Shah
    (pp. 41-60)

    IN THE PERIOD BETWEEN TAMERLANE and the late eighteenth century, Iran was home to one more great empire and to the last great Asian conqueror. The Safavid dynasty (1501–1760), which made Persia once again a center of high civilization and wealth, joined Persian culture to the creed of Shia Islam, which has ever since defined and inspired Iran as a nation. The Safavids built the first Persian army to incorporate gunpowder weapons and set the stage for increased interaction with the West and the Persian military’s conquests under NaderShah. The wars of the Safavids and NaderShah demonstrated again how...

  8. 3 Laughingstock: The Qajar Military
    (pp. 61-89)

    THE NINETEENTH AND EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURIES witnessed Iran’s uneasy transition into a modern nation-state under the increasingly decrepit Qajar dynasty (1794–1926). The country solidified its contemporary boundaries during this period while its ethnic Persians, Azeris, and other peoples increasingly adopted an Iranian national consciousness. The Qajars’ greatest challenge, however, was to avoid entanglements with Russian and British imperialist policies, and war was the result of the Iranian monarchs’ repeated failures to do so. Qajar pretensions to retain some of Iran’s imperial glory contributed to these conflicts, which, in turn, led to cycles of humiliating concessions and debts. By the...

  9. 4 Nationalism Unleashed: From Revolution to the Great War
    (pp. 91-124)

    THE REGULAR MILITARY’S UNSTEADY MARCH toward modernity and effectiveness came to a virtual standstill after the start of the twentieth century, but a new popular fighting force arrived on the scene to lay part of the foundation for future improvements. These revolutionary militias, called the mujahedin, or “fighters of the holy cause,” by their contemporaries, arose to battle for Western-style democratic reforms and to resist foreign domination. They were joined by tribal warriors to confront the Qajars, who remained unwilling to reform, incapable of addressing the armed forces’ many problems, and oblivious to unfolding world events. While the Qajar military...

  10. 5 Two Paths: The Birth of the Modern Iranian Armed Forces
    (pp. 125-150)

    FOLLOWING THE FIRST WORLD WAR the character of the two main contestants to become Iran’s dominant military force presented very different paths to the emerging modern nation-state. On one path was the promonarchy and authoritarian Persian Cossack Brigade, which had no tradition of being answerable to Iranian authorities or the Iranian people. On the other, the prodemocratic and nationalist Gendarmerie was allied to reform-minded liberals and had a good reputation from its battles against the Russians and British during the war. All things being equal, Iran’s earlier history suggested that the country’s modern armed forces would spring from an amalgamation...

  11. 6 Sidelined: The World at War in Iran
    (pp. 151-180)

    FROM THE TIME GERMANY AND THE SOVIET UNION invaded Poland in September 1939 until the Soviets and British invaded Iran in August 1941, Reza Shah and his country were the subject of intense great power concern and operational planning. The shah had proclaimed Iran’s neutrality in early September 1939, but the sum of Allied fears was an exaggerated picture of the real but still limited German influence in Iran. Reza Shah for once found himself on the wrong side of history, and the consequences of the unprovoked Allied invasion in World War II were significant for Iran. Its army was...

  12. 7 Cold War Pillar: The Rise of the Imperial Armed Forces
    (pp. 181-210)

    DURING HIS REIGN, MUHAMMAD REZA surpassed his father in lavishing attention and resources on Iran’s armed forces. Over the course of the three decades following World War II the country recovered from war and internal turmoil and was blessed with a windfall of oil revenues that allowed the monarch to achieve most of his material ambitions for a large, well-armed, and modern military. But the Pahlavi shah, even after he firmly established himself as Iran’s leader after 1953, allowed his fears and ambitions to override advice on developing a sustainable and effective military. The result was uneven growth, wasteful spending,...

  13. 8 Old Guard, New Guard: Iran’s Armed Forces in the Islamic Revolution
    (pp. 211-241)

    BY 1978 THE IRANIAN MILITARY BUILDUP had given Muhammad Reza “the capability to patrol the sea as far south as Madagascar and the skies as far west as Cairo.”¹ With his armed forces becoming even more powerful, the shah had declared a new Persian Empire. Blinded by his grand plans, he ignored numerous warning signs about the fraying of his dynasty and armed forces. The shah failed to build the bonds that ensured the historical strengths of Iranian fighting men would be used in his service. In contrast, Ayatollah Khomeini, the people’s Imam, kept a clear view of his goals...

  14. 9 Horrible Sacrifice: The Iran-Iraq War
    (pp. 242-298)

    THE EIGHT YEARS OF WAR WITH IRAQ were instrumental in shaping the current structure and outlook of Iran’s armed forces. Ironically, Iraq’s invasion in September 1980 was a godsend for Khomeini and his allied hard-liners, who were facing waning popular enthusiasm for the new order. The Iraqi aggression ensured the clerical regime’s survival by reviving the public’s nationalism and diverting attention from the country’s slide into tyranny. By bolstering the influence of religious militants on the shape of Iran’s military, the conflict also made permanent the Artesh-Pasdaran divide. The interaction of religion and politics in military strategy and tactics grossly...

  15. 10 Despise Not Your Enemy: Iran’s Armed Forces in the Twenty-first Century
    (pp. 299-330)

    MORE THAN TWO DECADES AFTER THE END OF THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR the Iranian armed forces had risen from the ashes to help their country reclaim what the government sees as its rightful place in the world. Iran still has significant shortcomings in most categories of combat power and military effectiveness. Still, the Iranian military had improved its strengths enough by 2005 to be called a significant threat to US interests and allies in the Persian Gulf by senior US intelligence officials. During 2012, the US Department of Defense in an unclassified annual report on Iranian military power assessed that Iran’s...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 331-354)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 355-368)
  18. Index
    (pp. 369-386)