The military creed is the bedrock of all politico-military strategies of armies worldwide. It is what divides enemies and risks according to specific military determinants which are heavily based on threats and dangers. Thus, the military creed directly reflects the ideology of political leaders and decision makers towards countries in terms of risks and threats.
When exploring the enemies hypothesis in the Iranian military creed, the ideological patterns which shaped the Iranian political mentality- at home and abroad- ought to be reviewed chronologically and philosophically. The historical development of Zoroastrianism played an integral role in Iran’s perspective towards the rest of the world. Iran divides the world into two blocs: the good led by Iran and the bad led by other powers. Khomeini, himself, was highly influenced by this perspective. He viewed the world as being divided into two blocs: “the oppressors and the oppressed.” The concepts adopted in the Iranian military creed, at present, are adhesively linked to and influenced by its historical roots. Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Iran’s geo-security paradigm is shaped by Khomeini’s division of the world. He divided the world into three main blocs:
– Islamic world led by Iran
– Socialist world led by Russia
– Capitalist world led by the United States of America
The friends and enemies, according to Iranian decision makers, are:
– Kafir-enemy (disbeliever) states like the United States of America;
– Kafir-friendly states like China and North Korea;
– Islamic-enemy states like Saudi Arabia;
– Islamic-ally states like Syria and
– Neutral states like the developing countries and non-aligned states.
However, the current strategic categorization of enemies in the Iranian military creed is as follows:
– First level enemies: The United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Hezbollah, and the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party (Iraq);
– Second level enemies: Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan, and Egypt;
– Third level enemies: Iranian opposition movements such as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, the Arab Liberation Movement of Ahwaz, and Jaish ul-Adl, in addition to other Sunni armed groups which oppose Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
– Fourth level enemies: Most of the states and movements are included in this level under specific categorizations, however, they are not a threat to Iran’s national security. They become enemies or friends according to their relations with Iran.
Making enemies is very significant in the Iranian military creed. Besides the stated and potential enemies, the Iranian propaganda machine plays an integral role in creating phony enemies. It does this by using the statements made by the Supreme Leader and military officials in the IRGC, as well as, through Friday sermons. It merges the ubiquitous enemy with conspiracy theories to keep the Iranian people completely deaf and blind from socio-economic failures, which would embarrass the regime. The latest uprising in Iran is a good example here. Iran’s media plays the same role in this regard.
How Iran views enemies:
Iran has a vague and foggy view about its enemies. It blatantly considers the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel as enemy states without a shadow of doubt. On the other hand, its relationship with “radical Sunnis” such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, is not fixed, with them being friends or foes at any moment in time. This is the same with states like Turkey, Pakistan, Qatar and the Palestinian armed factions, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Generally convening with them does not necessarily lead to a stable long-run relationship. Their relationship is like the threads of a spider’s web. Iran runs a very pragmatic strategic vision towards its enemies, i.e., its categorization of who or what is an enemy depends on its national interest requirements.
The ideologization of the creed of Iran’s military institutions such as the IRGC and the Basij is not only confined to its enemies abroad but it includes the domestic front as well. The regulation of the IRGC, issued in 1982, states that the main mission of the IRGC is to protect the principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran from its enemies at home or abroad. And the IRGC co-works with several educational institutions in Iran, most prominently the Baqir al-Olum University and the Imam Hossein Comprehensive University, as well as, with Think Tanks to ideologically prepare Iran’s military institutions, in addition to the psychological preparation of their soldiers.
The function of enemies
The enemies hypothesis is very instrumental in Iran’s military creed by using all of Iran’s capabilities to serve the leaders of the Iranian political system. It has allowed them to violate basic human rights, such as the freedom of speech under the cover of enemy threats. It has smoothed the path for Iran to spread its influence across the s Middle East under the doctrinal pretext of protecting the oppressed and their holy sites in neighboring countries. The enemies hypothesis granted the Supreme Leader historical symbolism and religious legitimacy which he exploited. As the Deputy of the Absent Imam, he is authorized to lead the Islamic Republic which is surrounded by Sunni states, seeking to seize Iran. The Supreme Leader and the IRGC leaders acquired massive economic benefits from the big military budgets allocated to them. They are handled covertly and are not openly discussed in the Iranian parliament or in any other platform in Iran. Iran’s Prosecutor General Mohammed Jafari Montazeri, in a meeting in Jalistan North of Iran in Feb. 28, 2018 said, “the enemy uses all techniques, including establishing think tanks where Zionist, British, and American experts work, to target the national security of the Republic of Iran.” Iran’s Supreme Leader when addressing the anniversary of Khomeini’s death in Tehran said, “the enemy’s anger is incited because Khomeini’s ideology is still deeply rooted in the people’s minds and in the programs of this homeland.” The advisor to the Supreme Leader for Defense Industries and Armed Forces Logistics Hossein Dehghani said, “the enemy’s conspiracy to incite disturbance and sedition in Iran during the past three months was thwarted down.” The IRGC Second-in-Command Brigadier General Hossein Salami said on the anniversary celebrating the 1979-revolution in Ahvaz, “the goal of the enemy by imposing economic pressure on Iran is to paralyze the country… they want to show to the world that progress without depending on the great powers is impossible. No country can secure itself alone without the Western countries [help]. The Islamic Revolution surpassed the boundaries. Today, we chase the enemy abroad, we have at the same time achieved progress in all scientific fields and in technology. The enemy is concerned about Iran’s ballistic capabilities. Today we do not compare ourselves to the pre-revolution phase because it was the era of vulnerability. Today we compare ourselves to the advanced powers in the world because our progress is the fruit of the efforts and thoughts of our youth.”
Strategy of confrontation
Iran sought to impose itself by ballistic missiles, proxy wars, and cyber wars. Though not sufficient on their own, Iran used them to achieve slight victories, especially in naval and land warfare. Iran adapted its military capabilities with changing geographical realities by using the appropriate weapons, equipment or military strategies and tactics. It balanced between the strategy of defense and attack, along with using appropriate geographical and military features in conflict.
In sum, Iran views the world with much nonconfidence. The world, according to Iran, generates insecurities in all walks of life. This stems from the principle of Taqiyya in politics (disguise to deceive the enemy) to hide the truth and real intentions. Social psychologists argue that this, “ubiquitous enemy”, in Iranian society is generated from a mix of political, social, and physiological factors, such as the history of colonization in modern Iran, the belief in Zoroastrianism (i.e. the power of evil entities in the world), the Inevitability of God in human affairs, the magnifying of beliefs before studying thoroughly the nature of human beings and the need for a collective defense mechanism during times of weakness and national humiliation. Moreover, the Persian culture through fictious legends and poetry has furthered the concept of an ubiquitous enemy and conspiracy. The regime, very often, supports the use of cultural tools to make people accept the enemy hypothesis.
Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of Rasanah