BMI's Iran Defence & Security Report examines the country’s strategic position in the Middle East andthe wider world. It provides an overview of the contemporary geopolitical challenges facing the IslamicRepublic and the challenges it may face in the future.
The report examines the trends occurring in the country’s current and future defence procurement, and theorder of battle across its armed forces. The report’s general conclusion is that Iran faces ever-deeperisolation from the international community, as well as a range of severe security threats, both internal andexternal. Internally, Islamist hardliners have cemented their grip on power even as the country’s economyruns deeper into crisis: social unrest and an Arab Spring-style uprising cannot be discounted. Iranian oilrevenues have been hit hard by sanctions and also by the falling oil price; this is piling added pressureonto the country’s already-struggling economy.
Externally, the US and Israel continue to weigh up the pros and cons of attacking Iran in order to try tohalt its nuclear programme. An attack during 2012 now appears unlikely; however, the build-up of USforces in the Persian Gulf means that Washington is now in a position to strike, should the Iranians followthrough with their threats to block the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran also faces the possibility of losing one of its few regional allies, the Assad regime in Syria. Itsrelations with the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, are extremelytense, while Tehran’s relations with Turkey also stand to suffer over its continuing support for the Assadregime, which Ankara strongly opposes.
Over the last quarter BMI has revised the following forecasts/views:
The latest military and diplomatic developments concerning Iran are discussed in detail. Thoughnegotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries have continued in Istanbul, the prospect of adiplomatic solution appears extremely remote. Iran’s military moves have garnered far moreattention: it has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz to any oil tanker destined for a countrythat abides by the sanctions against Iran; it also staged a series of ballistic missile tests in July,and warned the US that all its bases in the region would be destroyed ‘within minutes’ of anyattack on Iran.
Military developments include: the launching of a new Iranian reconnaissance satellite; therelaunching of one of the navy’s three Kilo-class submarines following an extensive refit; andthe reported entry into service of a first Iranian-built version of the AH-1 Cobra attackhelicopter.
The US has also continued to build up its forces in the Middle East. This has included thedeployment of additional F-22 and F-15 fighter aircraft, minesweepers and the amphibious dockship USS Ponce. Two carrier battle groups remain in the region, with a third on standby.
A powerful new spyware program, called Flame, has attacked Iranian computer systems (as wellas those of other countries in the region). This followed the disclosure that the Stuxnet virus,which attacked computer systems relating to Iran’s nuclear programme, was of US/Israeli originand that US President Barack Obama personally ordered the cyberattacks to continue, despitegrowing concerns about the virus infecting non-Iranian systems.