Following statements by U.S. President Barack Obama in early March 2012 clarifying that no attack on Iran was in the offing, and stressing the need for further diplomatic efforts vis-Ã -vis Tehran, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Al-Qods Forces commander Qassem Suleimani tauntingly declared, at a March 13 ceremony paying tribute to martyrs, that his “regime’s military forces will work determinedly, with honor and national force, and will demonstrate their zeal in facing any blind attack from the enemy.”
On March 15, the website Mashreq News, which is close to security circles in Iran, cited Suleimani’s statements and elaborated on them, describing in detail how the IRGC would repel a ground attack on Iran, including a list of the means of warfare it would use. According to the website, the account is based on the IRGC’s latest military maneuvers in eastern Iran, and assumes that the country would be invaded from the east. The maneuvers, it should be mentioned, included mechanized infantry, armored forces, helicopters and concealed forces.
What is remarkable about this article is that, while all assessments and predictions published in the media in recent months have envisioned a surgical Western air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities – including a New York Times article envisaging a 100-plane Israeli strike – Mashreq discussed an extensive ground attack in eastern Iran, stressing the country’s ability to repel such an attack by listing the weapons systems in its possession, which are for the most part outmoded. Also of note is the defensive nature of the military response described in the article, which makes no mention of previous Iranian threats to strike U.S. airbases in the Gulf or other U.S. or Israeli interests (See MEMRI’s recent reports for more on these threats).
The article is presumably intended to calm the fears of Iran’s citizens over a potential strike against the country. However, beyond the failure to address the most plausible threat of an air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, the outdated military equipment attributed to the IRGC may indicate Iran’s military inferiority, at least in terms of its ground capability.
Following are the article’s main points:
The IRGC forces will use remotely operated and controlled equipment, such as “smart mines” and anti-personnel bounding mines that have been modified to combat enemy vessels.
“Detonation of an enemy position”
IRGC forces will use a combined force of T-72 tanks and troops equipped with semi-heavy arms and rocket launchers. The tanks will be concealed underground, and will be capable of deploying quickly from their hiding places to overtake the enemy and destroy its targets, as simulated in the recent IRGC maneuvers.
“A T-72 tank firing [its cannon]; notice an additional T-72 emerges [from hiding] in ground, in right of picture”
Iran’s improved T-72 model is capable of launching the laser-guided Tondar missile, which has a range of four kilometers and can destroy armored, concrete, and naval targets as well as slow-moving targets at low altitude. Its guidance system enables it to strike moving targets.
According to Mashreq, the tank’s 125-millimeter, automatic loading 2A46M cannon and its “extremely lethal weaponry,” the APFSDS (armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot), will be highly effective in destroying or disabling enemy tanks.
“Iranian produced 125-millimeter armor-piercing shell for use in T-72 tank”
The IRGC forces will also employ BMP-2 armored personnel carriers (APCs), which carry a 30-millimeter automatic cannon and launchers for Soviet made AT-5 and AT-4 second generation wire-guided antitank missiles. The APCs are equipped with the newer Iranian-made Tousan missile. They also feature defense systems against chemical, biological, and radiological WMDs, and a masking system to evade enemy laser-guided missiles.
“BMP-2 APC equipped with Tousan rocket launcher”
The website explained that all these assets can evade enemy detection with stealth abilities, including reducing their heat and radar signatures.
“BMP-2 APC emerges from hiding”
During its recent maneuvers, the IRGC also introduced a new line of APCs. Mashreq explained that in addition to their heavy armor, these APCs help maintain steady and uninterrupted communications with command units, as well as swiftly moving troops and semi-heavy gear closer to enemy positions.
“IRGC APCs (from left-to-right): Boragh Ambulance, Sarir, and Shanidar”
Mashreq explained that during the recent maneuvers, the IRGC forces were assisted by light motorcycle units armed with light and semi-heavy weapons, such as shoulder-fired and surface-to-air missiles. These units, which conceal themselves in different areas, emerge from hiding at the appropriate time, surprise the enemy, and according to Mashreq, are expected to inflict heavy losses.
Aerial support for the troops will be provided by (Bell AH-1) Cobra and Mil Mi-17 helicopters. The Cobra attack helicopters will provide aerial support for ground troops. They are armed with 20-millimeter cannon, Haidar-70 (sic.) rockets, and a new generation of Toophan missiles that can be used to attack the enemy from a distance of several kilometers. The Mil Mi-17 helicopters, which can carry some 30 soldiers, will be used for quick transport, and possess significant firepower thanks to their ability to carry six medium-range rockets on each side as well as semi-heavy machine guns.
“Cobra helicopter launching a rocket”
“Armed Mil Mi-17 helicopter”
Another important aspect of these maneuvers was simulating the defense of ground units from aerial attack. This defense was provided by shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and SAM-6 anti-aircraft missile systems, and by artillery mounted on tanks and APCs, which is expected to provide a maximal effective aerial coverage of two-and-a-half to three kilometers. Iran’s various shoulder-fired missiles, which cover targets up to six kilometers away and four kilometers in altitude, are effective against attack helicopters and drones, and its Tousan and Tondar missiles can easily hit enemy helicopters.
“Shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile”
The SAM-6 missile system tested in these maneuvers is expected to overcome enemy aircraft. Its missiles have a range of up to 25 kilometers and are effective for targets up to 14 kilometers in altitude. The radar and electronic warfare systems in Iranian SAM-6 missiles have been improved and equipped with optical systems. According to Mashreq, the use of this system in battle would effectively secure and protect Iranian ground forces from A-10 (Warthog tactical) attack aircraft, and AC-130 (gunships).
Mashreq stressed that the IRGC did not demonstrate its full might during the recent maneuvers. Thus, for example, it did not use the TOR-M1 medium-range aerial defense system, which has been improved by Iran to a range of 12 kilometers, as opposed to the original model, which only has a range of four-and-a-half kilometers. The IRGC also did not employ Toophan missiles (especially the Toophan-5), 107-millimeter rockets, rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), etc.
Mashreq estimated that, even without using these assets, Iran’s forces are battle ready, have studied the enemy well, and are prepared to act cunningly and swiftly against the invading forces.
*A. Savyon is Director of the Iranian Media Project; Y. Mansharof is a research fellow at MEMRI.
 Fars (Iran), March 13, 2012.
 New York Times (US), February 19, 2012.
 MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.793, “In Response to Escalating Threats between West and Iran, Iranian Official Calls On Regime To Attack Israel,” February 7, 2012, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/108/0/6058.htm; Special Dispatch No.4467, “Iranian Websites Publish Threats against U.S. Targets in Gulf,” February 1, 2012,http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/6047.htm; Special Dispatch No.4466, “Iranian MP Hossein Ebrahimi, Deputy Head of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security Committee: ‘The Persian Gulf Will Be Turned into a Graveyard’ for International Forces,” February 1, 2012, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/6046.htm; Special Dispatch No.4339, “Former IRGC Commander General Rahim Safavi: If Israel Starts a War, It Will Be Targeted ‘With Full Force’ by Hizbullah, Hamas, and Iran; Special Dispatch No.4391, “Article On Iranian Website: This Is How We’ll Close Strait of Hormuz,” December 28, 2011,http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5956.htm; ‘The Number and Range of Our Missiles Is Unlimited,'” December 5, 2011, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5886.htm; Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.760, “Tehran’s Reaction to IAEA Report: Apprehension and Escalated Threats,” November 14, 2011,http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/108/0/5812.htm.