The report examines the trends in Iran's current and future defence procurement, and the order of battle across its armed forces. The report's general conclusion is that despite the domestic and diplomatic respite President Hassan Rouhani's tentative engagement with the US and the West may bring, Iran faces extreme economic and security challenges. These partly stem from its controversial nuclear programme and also from its unpopular support for the Assad regime in Syria.
International sanctions have gutted Iran's oil exports, which have now sunk to less than half of their usual level. Iran's leadership - subject to the veto of its ideologically-led 'Supreme Leader' - may be pragmatically weighing up the supposed benefits of continuing its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The United States government hopes that this extreme economic pressure, combined with the build-up of military assets in the region, will encourage the Iranians to continue with tentative diplomatic steps seen over the last quarter. This has somewhat stymied Israeli hawks' enthusiasm for a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
This report tackles several defence issues from the last quarter and contains a number of revised forecasts/ views, including:
- Improving diplomacy over the nuclear issue with the US has seen BMI raise its Short-Term Political Risk Rating for Iran from 42.5/100 to 49.6/100.
- Iran has continued with ostentatious military displays and manoeuvres; this quarter has seen 30 missiles with a claimed range of 2,000k paraded before 'moderate' president, Rouhani.
- Major naval manoeuvres are to continue over the winter months.
- BMI is projecting defence expenditure to rise, despite economic hardships and high unemployment.
- Cyber-warfare between Iran and its foes remains a current issue; a senior Iranian cyber-warfare official was found murdered in October, adding to the tally of Iranian nuclear/ballistic personnel who have been eliminated in recent years.
- Defence procurement remains an issue for Iran. A report from the United Kingdom's parliament in July 2013 criticised the granting of arms export licences to firms attempting to send materiel to a number of suspect countries - including Iran. This demonstrates the regime's interest in renewing and developing its under-pressure arms industry.
- Iran will face more political and diplomatic pressure in the MENA region; its proxy in Lebanon - Hezbollah - has become embroiled in Syria's civil war.