Iran pp 175-198 | Cite as

The Army

  • Haleh Afshar


The armed forces have played a central role in maintaining the political order in the past six decades in Iran. A key element in the emergence of Reza Shah as king in 1921, the army remained the basis of support for the subsequent Pahlavi regime. Since the 1979 revolution, the clergy have also used armed men in both regular and irregular forces, to secure their hold over the country. The policy of using armed government forces primarily against internal opponents has continued despite the revolution. Although the current war against Iraq has added a new dimension to the operation of Iranian armed forces, it is the contention of this paper that the primary role of the government’s militia is to act as repressive agents of the regime and to eliminate internal, rather than external opposition.


Staff Report Military Mission Secret Police High Ranking Officer National Security Council 
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  1. 2.
    A. Salamatian, ‘Historique du Rôle Politique de I’Armée en Iran’, thesis for the Faculty of Law & Economics at Paris University, February 1970, p. 106.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Ibid, p. 115.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Ibid, p. 109.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Ibid, p. 111.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    General H. Arfa Under Five Shahs (London: John Murray, 1964) p. 283.Google Scholar
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    Ibid, p. 342.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    S. Zabih The Communist Movement in Iran (University of California Press, 1966) p. 178.Google Scholar
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    M. R. Pahlavi, Answer to History (New York: Stein & Day, 1980) p. 157.Google Scholar
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    Draft report to the National Security Council by NSC Board 21 December 1953. Quoted by Y. Alexander and A. Nanes (eds) The US and Iran: A Documentary History (University Publication of America, 1980) p. 268.Google Scholar
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    Ibid, p. vii. William H. Sullivan, US Ambassador, notes that many of the American instructors ‘proved to be a partially disruptive element in US-Iranian relations’, W. H. Sullivan, Mission to Iran (W. W. Norton & Co, New York and London 1981) p. 80.Google Scholar
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    Ibid, p. ix.Google Scholar
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    Ibid, p. 49.Google Scholar
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    Ibid, p. 36.Google Scholar
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    B. Rubin Paved with Good Intentions (Oxford University Press, 1980) pp. 164–5.Google Scholar
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    Anthony Parsons British Ambassador notes that the Iranian army were quite unable to disperse even small crowds by baton charges and anti-riot techniques; ‘the Iranian army was behaving as though it was fighting a war against a national enemy’. Anthony Parson The Pride and the Fall, Jonathan Cape, London 1984, p. 104.Google Scholar
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    Ayatollah Montazeri’s address to the Clergy, Kayhan, 2 February 1984.Google Scholar

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© Haleh Afshar 1985

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  • Haleh Afshar

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