Rouhani Takes Credit for Enhancing Iran’s Military Capabilities, Aiding Iraq and Syria

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Jul 12, 2017
Rouhani Takes Credit for Enhancing Iran’s Military Capabilities, Aiding Iraq and Syria

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said that upgrading the country’s missiles and accelerating the production of “strategic weapons” have been among the greatest achievements of his government in the past four years. “The defense minister announced that the volume of strategic weapons produced during the 11th administration accounted for 80 percent of all strategic weapons manufactured during previous governments combined,” he said at a health festival on Tuesday. He also stressed that his government should be credited for having supported Iraq and Syria in their fight against the Islamic State at a time when his government still suffered the implications of international sanctions. “When we say we helped the Iraqi people, some think only those who sacrificed their lives were helpful,” he pointed out. “Of course we should appreciate these acts of sacrifice. But who provided the salaries and weapons for these individuals,” he added. “Who provided the funding for all weapons that Iraq needed to fight Daesh [Islamic State] at the time of sanctions? Or likewise in Syria.”

The Iranian president also referred to the missile strikes by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) against Islamic State positions in Syria. “It is accurate that a missile was launched form our country and targeted a terrorist base. Those who launched the missiles made efforts and rendered sacrifices. But who has designed and manufactured this missile?” he asked. “The manufacturer of the missiles is the government. The ministry of defense has produced the missiles. Regarding who funds it, it is the country’s economic sector that pay for it,” he stressed. 

Comment: While the 2015 nuclear deal rolled back Iran’s nuclear activity, the Islamic Republic has accelerated its efforts to modernize its military and enhance domestic production of military equipment. At present, the Iranian military is still dependent on Russia, China, North Korea and other foreign suppliers to procure much of its requirement for military equipment. Based on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s guidelines, the Iranian military has recently put particular focus on producing military weapons and other equipment at home and reduce the country's dependence on foreign suppliers to a minimum.

Tehran appears to have used some of the sanctions relief to invest in its defense power at the expense of other priorities. Rouhani recently revealed that the country’s military budget has seen a 145 percent increase during his four year in office. And in January, Iranian lawmakers approved a plan to expand military spending to five percent of the overall budget. The plan includes developing Iran’s long-range missile program, the main source of tension between Tehran and Washington since Donald Trump took office in January. According to the Iranian media, the plan "requires government to increase Iran's defense capabilities as a regional power and preserve the country's national security and interests by allocating at least five percent of annual budget" to military programs. Last year, Khamenei stressed that “Iran's defensive capability and power must be increased so that the bullying powers would feel threatened.”

In addition to meeting military needs domestically, the Iranian military also seeks to become a major arms exporter in the future. In January, Dehghan announced that the Islamic Republic was ready to export small-caliber ammunition to foreign countries. “By inaugurating and launching this production line, in addition to meeting all needs of the armed forces to small-caliber ammunition, the production capacity for such ammunition has doubled and the ground is paved to export it as well.”

Read more: