Iran’s Deterrence Strategy
Asymmetric threats include terrorist groups’ infiltration of the Iranian border and covert support for these groups by some neighboring countries. Iran’s strategy is defensive, nevertheless. That is, the Islamic Republic will not have any plans to attack another country. The recent weapons manufactured by Iran’s defense industries are clear proofs of that strategy.
Politically, unveiling new weapons systems and launching military maneuvers are deterrents by their nature. They are in fact intended to send a message to opponents—that in terms of military power, Iran is prepared to make any country regret adventurism toward it.
Nonetheless, the current arms race in the Persian Gulf region has nothing to do with Iran. If we compare the military budget/GDP or population ratio of Middle Eastern countries, Iran will definitely not top the chart. Compare this with the 30 billion dollar arms contracts the UAE and Saudi Arabia signed with Washington. News such as this may demonstrate where Riyadh stands in the arms race. Military contractors always crave new markets and who better than Arab states of the Persian Gulf region with their petrodollars? Interestingly, these countries lack the experts required to utilize the weapons. An ever-present part of their military contracts with arms dealers is the training of their military forces to actually use the weapons. As such, a large portion of the weaponry sold to Arab countries during the past 15 years by American, British, and French companies has remained, unused and storehoused.
A powerful motive behind the arms race in the region is Israel. Since its establishment, Israel has strived to outperform regional states in terms of defense capability. Israel’s military doctrine is based on sustention of military supremacy in the region. Thus, a look at the list of arms-purchasing states shows that Israel’s Arab neighbors, namely Jordan and Egypt, are absent, though their budget shortages and lack of petrodollars can also partially explain this absence.
I, for one, do not believe that Iran’s testing of new weapons systems can fuel an arms race in the region. The Islamic Republic has proven that its preferred regional strategy is détente and building trust. Iran’s target is not the regional states, and no neighboring countries are regarded as threats in Iran’s military doctrine.
* Rahman Qahremanpour is a fellow researcher on disarmament in the Center for Strategic Research (csr.ir).