In January 1979, Iran saw a revolutionary wave characterized by protests, strikes and demonstrations by the public against the Shah. This led to the collapse of the Pahlavi dynasty, and, on April1 of that year, Iran officially became an Islamic republic under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. Iran’s nuclear project was temporarily halted at this time but started again with minimal involvement from the West. Classified documents obtained by the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] proved that Iran was acquiring black market centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium to weapon grade (Gold 2). It is feared that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, it would increase its support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas (Edelman et al. 9). In light of this potential international threat, it is important to understand the civil-military relations in Iran. In this essay, I will show how the civilians do not have control of the military, but, rather, the religious leader maintains total control. As a theocracy, Iran is an interesting case and I will show the various ways that religion and politics mix and the effect it has on the military.
To begin, I will summarize some important historical events. Anciently, the nation was known as Persia, but this was changed to Iran in the year 1935. Iran became under military rule in 1942, which was done by the United States as they tried to maintain control of petroleum production. The military forces were withdrawn later after an agreement to allow Iran to remain an independent state. Eventually, through an Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran was able to change its system of government from the US supported monarchy to fundamental Islamic theocracy. The Revolution government was protected by the military whose main role was to get rid of all opposition (Ward 19).
Civil-military relations in Iran are unique because it was the brainchild of an individual, Ayatollah Khomeini. The Supreme Leader who is also a religious leader (Ward 156) spearheads it. Civil-military relations involve the relationship between the military leadership and the civil leadership in a nation. In Iran, the relationship between the civil authority and the military authority was peaceful since the engagement was religious based, Islam. In addition to that, the military had a say in how the civil authorities carried out their duties in national development both economically and politically. A case in point is the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. The armed forces were well organized in three different ranks all of which had leaders and were run in different ways each with its own mission.
In Iran, civil-military relations include the military’s role in political issues. The military in Iran has been incorporated in decision-making thus creating a democratic civil-military model. This is because, despite the government’s power, it still seeks guidance from other sources. In addition to that, the military plays a role in providing security in case of external attacks such as the invasion by Iraq in 1981. Sometimes, the military maintains order and peace in the country, which is the role of the police in most nations. This contributes in maintaining peace and also close relations of the military and the local population since their security depends on the military (Born 76).
Patterns of civil-military relations in Iran include the government’s effort to professionalize the army. The militants receiving training in other countries such as Russia made this possible. To be effective in establishing a democratic civil-military concept, the leaders in government are expected to negotiate with military leaders about issues concerning the nation. In addition to that, democratic patterns can also be achieved by improving the military’s image as seen by the society. This can possibly enlighten the public on the duties of the military and their importance, which include defending national interests and taking tough decisions when need arises. This is a tool for democratic control.
Institutionalization of civil-military relations has been successful in Iran. One of the reasons behind this is that the military is the chief supporter of the government. The military protects the constitution of Iran since the revolution. It helps prevent any kind of opposition. The relationship between the civil authority and the military authority in Iran is a positive one and is also peaceful. The government cooperates well with the military thus does not create room for efforts to contest for any position of power (IPSA Research Committee on Armed Forces and Society. Triannual Conference 105).
The Iranian military is considered as the most powerful owing to the number of military personnel in it. The military personnel are well trained; most of them receiving training from American military academies as well as European military academies. Others are also trained locally. Iran has an Iranian Military industry that deals with production of weapons. This was established after the Islamic revolution in 1979 (Ward 268). This is another reason why Iranian military is referred to as the most powerful. The military is composed of both men and women with the government allowing volunteers from the ages of 16 and 19 year olds accordingly (Huntington 56). A good example of this role is when the guards were used to get rid of opposition parties during the revolution (Huntington 98).
As Iran maintained producing its own weaponry through the Iranian Military Industry, it posed a threat to the United States and this led to enmity. By producing its own weapons, Iran was considered dangerous thus discouraging international business transactions with other states. This was made harder by the United States who came up with a policy that nations should choose to do business with either them or Iran. Automatically, other nations chose the United States and this led to bankruptcy in Iran. This was a risky policy since the economy of Iran being affected meant that the living standards of the people would be low thus without development (LLC 55).
Despite this, Iran was able to grow economically without the help of other nations. The nation learnt to be self-reliant and improved its economy. Since it deals with oil production, this sector was made broader, and it became successful due to the world’s reliance on oil as a source of energy. In addition to that, since the nation relies on its own production of nuclear weapons, the budget of the Republic of Iran focuses very little attention to funding the military. Production of its own weaponry has led to it being a threat to other nations and facing accusations of wanting to stage a nuclear war (Daniel 49).
Iran also has paramilitary elite unit known as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. They are part of the armed forces and have various missions in the running of the nation. They are mainly involved in maintaining internal peace by stopping riots and getting rid of opposition. In addition to that, they also act as replacements to the regular military, which is the highest position in the armed forces. The armed forces are also involved in controlling the transportation of military equipment in and out of the country. This is mainly under the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who prevent smuggling of military equipment in and out of the nation. This ensures that there is security for the locals against invasion by other nations (Ward 122).
These missions of the armed forces had an impact on some social groups who criticized the roles given to the armed forces. According to them, these roles were not clearly stated, and they portrayed that the leaders of the nation could not run the Republic of Iran without military aid. The critics maintained that the military should not be involved in political matters concerning the nation since they would feel more powerful and, therefore, take over in the running of the nation (Seitz 75).