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A Military History of Iran and Its Armed Forces

Steven R. Ward

Publication Year: 2014

Immortal 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.

Immortal begins with the founding of ancient Persia's empire under Cyrus the Great and continues through the Iran-Iraq War (1980--1988) and up to the present. Drawing on a wide range of sources including declassified documents, the author gives primary focus to the modern era to relate the build-up 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. He shows that, despite command and supply problems, Iranian soldiers demonstrate high levels of bravery and perseverance and have enjoyed surprising tactical successes even when victory has been elusive. These qualities and the Iranians' ability to impose high costs on their enemies by exploiting Iran's imposing geography bear careful consideration today by potential opponents.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction: The Iranian Phoenix

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pp. 1-10

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...

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1: Heritage of Greatness, Legacy of Loss

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pp. 11-40

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...

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2: Powerful Predecessors: The Safavids and Nader Shah

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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...

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3: Laughingstock: The Qajar Military

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pp. 61-90

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...

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4: Nationalism Unleashed: From Revolution to the Great War

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pp. 91-124

The regular military's unsteady march toward modernity and effectiveness came to a virtual standstill aft er 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...

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5: Two Paths: The Birth of the Modern Iranian Armed Forces

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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...

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6: Sidelined: The World at War in Iran

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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...

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7: Cold War Pillar: The Rise of the Imperial Armed Forces

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pp. 181-210

During his reign. Muhammad Reza surpassed his father in lavishing att ention 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

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8: Old Guard, New Guard: Iran’s Armed Forces in the Islamic Revolution

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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...

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9: Horrible Sacrifice: The Iran-Iraq War

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pp. 242-298

The Eight Years 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...

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10: Despise Not Your Enemy: Iran’s Armed Forces in the Twenty-first Century

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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 eff ectiveness. Still, the Iranian military had improved its strengths enough by 2005 to be...


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pp. 331-354


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pp. 355-368


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pp. 369-386

E-ISBN-13: 9781626160651
E-ISBN-10: 1626160651
Print-ISBN-13: 9781626160323
Print-ISBN-10: 1626160325

Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 2014