The military history of Iran dates back millennia. Even before settling in what is now Iran, Indo-Iranian tribes had invented the chariot by around 2000 BC. During their expansion into Iran and Central Asia during the early first millennium BC, Iranians developed the concept of cavalry, being the first people in the world to ride horses in battle on a large scale. Ancient Iranians were also noteworthy for the participation of women in battle; up to 20% of some tribes' warrior graves have female remains.
The Achaemenid Empire, which at its peak ruled over nearly half of the world's population, was known for the huge number of troops it fielded. Though ancient sources were prone to exaggeration, the Achaemenids could raise armies on an unprecedented scale. The most well-known Achaemenid unit was the Immortals, an elite 10,000-man corps that was so named because each casualty was immediately replaced, keeping the unit size constant.
The Achaemenid Empire was conquered by Alexander the Great, but a few decades later the Parthians, an Iranian tribe originating in what is now Turkmenistan, revolted against Greek rule and eventually conquered the Iranian plateau and Mesopotamia. The Parthian army was based on a one-two punch of horse archers and heavy cavalry.
The Sassanid dynasty from Persia replaced the Parthians in AD 224. The Sassanids were known for their elite heavy cavalry, the Savaran. They were The Rival to The Roman Empire, and after a particularly exhausting war with Rome they were conquered by the Arabs.
For centuries later, Iran was ruled by Arabs and then by a succession of lesser Iranian and Turkish kingdoms until the rise of the next Iranian empire under the Safavids. The Safavid army was originally centered on the Qizilbash Turkmen who brought the dynasty to power. Later on, the Shah added musketeers and artillery in order to keep up with the neighboring Ottoman Empire, to whom the Safavids were frequently The Rival. The collapse of the Safavids led to disorder which eventually caused Iran's territory to shrink to its current borders.
The modern Iranian army's history starts with Reza Shah's military reforms. He sent his officers to train in western academies and also brought in foreign advisors to train his soldiers. Reza Shah also established an air force and a new navy.
After the Iranian revolution, the new authorities established the Revolutionary Guards, which deal with internal security. The Revolutionary Guards are Iran's State Sec: they have their own army, navy, and air force; they also have nominal control of the Basij, a paramilitary militia that acts as the government's street thugs and Culture Police. Iran also developed its domestic arms industry after the revolution, as it found itself diplomatically isolated.
The last major war Iran has fought is the Iran-Iraq War. It was a very bloody war which eventually ended with no gains for either side, but it had a profound effect on Iranians, who lost up to 1,000,000 people in the war. The Iranians used Child Soldiers, though the use of children in the military was illegal under Iranian law. Iranian religious fervor and nationalism were very intense during the war, in some cases resulting in children being used in waves to clear minefields, being told they would be martyrs and go straight to heaven.
Nowdays, many people accuse Iran's government of attempting to build nuclear weapons, though Iran, of course, vehemently denies this.
In western works, Iran's military usually serves as a generic Middle Eastern antagonist, being almost a textbook example of an Acceptable Target.
Also see Iran.
The Sassanids in fiction
- They are a playable faction in the Empire Divided expansion for Total War: Rome II , and Total War: Attila.
The Iranian Armed Forces in fiction
- The Iranian Army is a playable side in Graviteam Tactics: Shield of the Prophet, where it fights the Soviet Army over control of western Afghanistan.
- JAG: In "The Black Jet", Harm and Mac stages a jailbreak of downed pilot Keeter from an Iranian prison, and is chased by the Iranian Army to the location of the not-crashed airplane.
- ArmA III features an Iranian-centric military alliance as one of its three factions.
- Splinter Cell: Blacklist features several encounters with Qods Force commandos, including a later mission which takes place in the heart of Qods Force headquarters in Tehran.
- Battlefield 3 takes place across Iran, besides Paris and New York City. In singleplayer, you fight the PLR, an Iranian paramilitary group, lead by Faruk Al-Bashir. The actual Iranian Military never show up and what happened to them is never brought up.
- The Brave has a two-episode arc where the SOG unit goes to infiltrate Tehran to eliminate a Qods Force commander who orchestrated a truck bombing in Turkey that targeted U.S. military personnel.
- In SEAL Team Season 3 episode 3, the "Armenian militia" that takes over the power plant in Nagorno-Karabakh actually turns out to be a unit of Iranian Qods Force commandos who are wearing unmarked uniforms and passing themselves off as mercenaries. Episode 8 of that same season features the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps hunting an F-35 pilot who was shot down over the Iran-Iraq border on the Iranian side.