Oil Revenue and the Militarisation of Iran : 1960-1978
A COMPREHENSIVE defence strategy for Iran involves a complex series of measures, because the country is large and its centres of population dispersed and poorly linked. Iran shares its borders with many countries having different social systems and at different stages of development; all with widely varied terrain. Iran has 5,170 kms. of land borders with five different countries (Iraq, Turkey, the USSR, Afghanistan and Pakistan) and 2,510 kms. of coast embracing three wholly different waters, the Caspian, the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman. Iranian territorial waters are contiguous with ten states.1 (the USSR, Pakistan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, South Yemen, the UAE, Iraq, Bahrain and Qatar). Military resources of the country were geared not only to protect her, but were also used as an instrument to suppress the internal forces who dared to challenge the sovereignty of the monarchy.
In 1922, military establishments accounted for 47 percent of the total budget and by 1925 a unified army of 40 thousand had come into existence. In 1926, the first general conscription law was introduced and by 1930 the strength of the army stood at 80 thousand men rising to 125 thousand in 1941. Reza Shah set up two military schools in Tehran and sent the first batch of officers to France, Sweden, Germany and the Soviet Union for training. He used the army to crush opposition inside the country and through it he forged a centralized government for the first time after two centuries.* In 1953, after a successful coup, against the government of Dr. M. Mossadeq, the military expenditure picked up further momentum.
The Iranian army did not have a hereditary officer corps, of the kind found in certain Afro-Asian countries, e.g., in India, where the armed forces were established on a selective basis by the colonial powers. Because Iran was never directly a colonized country, it had its independent Central government. In formal terms, the Shah was the commander-in-chief of the Iranian Army, and the members of the armed forces used to swear loyalty to God, Shah and the country.
*Research Scholar, CESP, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi*