May 04, 2016

Translation: The Artesh's Evolving Rhetoric

The deployment of Artesh Special Forces to Syria marks an evolution in the constitutionally-defined Artesh mission of defending Iran’s borders. It lays the groundwork for further IRGC-Artesh cooperation in other expeditionary deployments, which would be a significant increase in the combat power the Iranian regime might use in the Middle East beyond its borders. It is too soon to assess the effect of this evolution of the Artesh role on its doctrine and military organization, but it bears focused attention and analysis in the coming months.

Rhetoric from Artesh leadership in the weeks following the deployment to Syria hints at a fundamental transformation in the orientation of Iran’s conventional military. The following translation of an interview conducted with Artesh Deputy Commander Brigadier General Abdul Rahim Mousavi suggests that Artesh commanders have come to redefine their previous defensive posture to include deployments abroad as part of a preemptive doctrine against foreign threats to Iran’s borders.[1] Mousavi boasts that the Artesh is the “complement of the IRGC” and he also implies that conventional forces from the Artesh are serving alongside the Artesh’s Special Forces in Syria. The expansion of Iranian expeditionary deployments to include significant numbers of conventional Artesh troops would be a critical inflection in the nature and scale of Iran’s military support for the Assad regime.

America has made itself clueless about Iran's missile program

Translation by John Green

Defa Press: What is the role of observing regional threats for the Artesh, considering the various crises in Southwest Asia?

Mousavi: Monitoring regional threats is one of the primary duties of the armed forces, especially the Artesh. The Artesh must first determine what is occurring around it, then prepare itself accordingly and prevent the element of surprise. These measures are so that it can take the necessary and appropriate defensive measures in view of the collected information and environmental observations, if at some time something happens and an engagement begins. If the Army monitors developments successfully, it will be able to succeed in future occasions and increase its deterrent capability. If it is not able to observe and analyze regional trends, it will certainly have problems in the event of an engagement.

Defa Press: Some people say the Army’s inherent duty is guarding the nation’s borders, while the IRGC is responsible for guarding revolutionary values and ideological boundaries. What is your view about this?

Mousavi: The Constitution says one of the Army’s duties is to protect the system of the Islamic Republic. However, there could be various instances of this [type of protection] in the defense of both geographic and ideological boundaries. For example, we might see the defense of the system in the firing of a defensive missile at a hostile aircraft in some part of our nation’s air space. Another instance of defending the system might be in the presence of a naval fleet at the 10th parallel in a confrontation with pirates.[2] We also see it as standing on international boundaries [Iran’s borders] to confront aggressors. Or it might mean being at the farthest points of the world to oppose elements plotting against the Islamic Republic. This is one component. Another is that the Artesh and the IRGC make a unique combination. There is nothing comparable in the world.

This combination is based on the measures of the exalted commander-in-chief of the forces [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]. What is being managed currently is a complementary combination [of the two services], not a parallel one. Many people think the Islamic Republic of Iran has two Arteshes or for example two IRGCs, but in fact this is not the case. We have a single armed force, part of which is the Artesh and another part of which is the IRGC. Of course there are other components like the Ministry of Defense, which also have roles to play, but here we mostly have these two organizations in mind.

Therefore these two organizations cover each other proportional to combat doctrines. In fact, they complement one another in various circumstances. Whenever one of them needs the help of the other, each organization has the duty of bringing additional power to the operational field to complement the other one.

Defa Press: What example can you give in this regard?

Mousavi: If the main duty is given to the Artesh somewhere but the IRGC realizes that by helping the Artesh a better strategic framework might be realized, the IRGC will not wait to see what conditions are like. The IRGC will deploy to achieve the objectives. The converse is also true. Therefore when we feel we must be with our IRGC brothers who have the main mission, we will not wait or leave our capabilities unused.

The Artesh will not sit idly. The Artesh will not say “I do not have a job now so I will wait until it becomes my duty to be present and then go ahead.” No, it is not like this. We will instead take the necessary steps based on the responsibilities and measures in the chain of command. The same principle applies to sending an advisor to Syria.

Defa Press: In view of the reports about the presence in Syria of the 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade as advisors, please explain this brigade’s operational position in the Artesh.

Mousavi: Of course, do not be mistaken. It is not just the [65th] Airborne Special Forces Brigade and the Special Operations Forces that are working as advisers in Syria. A number of personnel from this brigade along with other volunteer forces from other Artesh units are present in Syria to provide advisory assistance.

Look, every soldier receives the necessary specialized training in his artillery, armored or other type of unit as appropriate for that specific unit. Therefore, just as the name suggests, the Artesh Special Forces are versatile and have seen and experienced various types of combat. A commando in the Special Forces has the ability to carry out a mission alone in a region, recruit forces, train them, procure weapons, adopt tactics, do the appropriate engineering work, and conduct combat and operations in accordance with the designated strategy.


[1] “Amrika darbareh barnameh-ye mushaki-e Iran khod ra beh nahfami zadehast” [America has made itself clueless about Iran’s missile program], Defa Press, April 26, 2016. Available in Persian:
[2] This is a reference to the Artesh Navy’s deployments to the Gulf of Aden. 
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