Welcome to the unofficial site of the
Iranian Special Operation Forces
This site is dediceted to the enduring memories of all my fallen brothers in arms of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), specially my fallen Ranger brothers, some of whom I've had the honor and privilege to serve & fight alongside with.
(I reckon we all died a little in that damn war, one way or another!)
- Please Note : This site contains Declassified information! For this reason, I've deliberately used some old statistics.
A brief history :
The modern Iranian Army was first founded between 1910 -1936 and it was trained by Swedish, British, Russian and German officers .
After the WW2, American and British helped to trained regular Army, Special Forces, The Imperial Guard and Marines until 1978 .
After 1978 revolution against Shah's dictatorship and the stablishment of the Islamic Republic (dictatorship), and beginning of the war against Sadaam's invasion of the southern Iran, the Iranian were determined to build self-independent and strong forces to drive Iraqi's occupying army out of southern Iran and maintain a strong hold against any potential transnational agressions.
The valuable "real world" lessens in modern warfare they were taught during the war are amoung the best training you can get .
Today's Army is a total of c. 1.000.000 strong men : 5 armour/artillery divisons, 8 infantry divisons, 3 fully equipped Airborne divisons (and 1 brigade), 2 Ranger/Airborne divisons and 2 Air Cavalry (Army Aviation) brigades . (2010)
The Revolutionary Guard Corp (Army, Air Force & Navy) is NOT included .
Each division has its own personnal & administration, signal, engineer, artillery, intelligence & security, anti-tank/-airplane, liaison (political-ideological directorate, including Psychological warfare unit), chemical/biological, logistic& support and medical units .
Special forces :
Iranian "Special Operation Forces" (Spec Ops) are carefully selected military units manned by highly motivated, highly skilled, high caliber professional personnel with unique and unusual skills, doing the audacious, usually behind enemy lines. They are extremely well-trained for specific rather than general purpose and undertake unusual tasks that ordinary units might accomplish only with greater difficulty and far less effectiveness, such as :
They train for missions which only they conduct. The actual execution of "real world" missions can be either openly acknowledged, clandestine or covert .
- Those involving insurgency, counter insurgency, resistance, counter terrorism, guerilla warfare and conducting raids, sabotage and intelligence operations .
- Are unorthodox, comparatively low-cost, potentially high pay-off, often covert or clandestine methods that support warfare across the entire spectrum of conflict .
There are five principle missions which are assigned to the Iranian Special Operations :
1) Unconventional warfare (UW) :
UW is the military aspect of an insurgency or other armed resistance movement. UW encompasses a broad spectrum of military operations conducted in enemy controlled or political sensitive territory. It includes guerrilla warfare, subversion, sabotage, intelligence collection, and other operations of a low visibility or clandestine nature.
UW operations are primarily conducted by indigenous or surrogate forces who are organized, trained, equipped, supported and directed by the Iranian Special Operations Forces .
UW participants are organized into three elements :
During Iran-Iraq war, iranian Spec Ops personnel worked with the iraqi kurds (in the north) and iraqi Shia (in the south) to attack/ambush iraqi forces inside Iraq, and also intelligence-gathering for DA operations.
- the guerrilla force is the overt military arm,
- the auxiliary element provides clandestine support to guerrillas,
- the underground element operates in small cells and conducts subversion and sabotage.
2) Direct Action (DA) :
Missions which are offensive operations conducted in low-visibility or clandestine manner. DA missions often employ raids, ambushes, or direct-assault tactics. Other missions involve emplacing demolitions or booby traps, conducting sabotage, providing terminal guidance for laser-guided munitions, or personnel/material recovery (such as shot-down pilots), threat personnel/material snatches.
DA missions are usually short in duration and have a planned exfil. They are designed to achieve significant, well-defined, and often time-sensitive results.
3) Special Reconnaissance (SR) :
Places "eyes on the target" to obtain well-defined, time-sensetive information. It may complement other collection efforts, or be the only method when there is a problem with weather, terrain masking, or enemy's counter measures. Typical SR missions include target acquisition, contact with resistance forces, reporting on enemy movements, surveillance of sensitive facilities, surviellance of enemy's key political and military personnel, marking targets for "Fire & Forget" weapons, and meteorological or hydrographic reconnaissance to support conventional operations (incl. support of Marine and fleet operations) .
4) Counter Terrorism (CT)/ - Insurgency: (- or as the israelies call it : "Active Defence" )
Elite commando units in the Iranian armed forces who take offensive actions (proactive intervention , military assault) against terrorists and their bases /infrastructures (search & destroy), or hostage rescue missions (Combat Search and Rescue), often behind enemy-held territory or in foreign countries (posed as civilians, if necessary), using very special equipments.
These are SOLDIERS who are not trained to arrest terrorists (- unless they're high value targets), negotiate with or to interrogate them. Their missions are to activly seek out and to kill terrorists and rescue hostages, or just kill terrorists (pre-empting strike). No questions asked .
Their missions are always highly classified, their existence are covered, and they work closely with the iranian intelligence agancies .
Operating in teams as large as 15, or as small as one, the iranian CT- units are capable of taking down any type of vehicles, aircrafts, ships, buildings, or facilities.
The official policy of the hostage rescue missions involving iranian CT-operators (- opposed to AT-ops) is that all hostages are assumed to be already dead at the beginning of the operation, which makes the terrorists as the primary targets. Taking out hostages out of equation, so to speak, although sounds brutal, gives a freer hand to operators to deploy the best tactics in such operations, and at the same time to discourage any future hostage-takers. It means : "If hostages have no value for us, there is no point for you to take them in the first place!", goes the logic behind the idea. Of course the world is full of nutcases who never learn ;-)
CT missions require close coordination, extreme team work, and the ability to make life-and-death decisions in an instant.
Very few countries have such these units which can truly considered as CT : Iranian "Tactical Assault Team","Air Sea Assault Commandos" and "Zarbat Team"; US Army "DELTA Force" & Navy SEAL "Team 6"; British army "22 SAS. Reg" & Navy "SBS."; Russian Army/Navy "Spetsnaz"; and israeli army "Seyarat Met Kaal".
CT is the surgical military tool used by politicians in their foreign policy to achieve political objectives, which also explains why so few countries have CT units.
When the respective government decides to put a CT unit in action, it means they don't want any prisoners. The whole purpose is to send a massage to the terrorists : "We can get you anywhere at anytime ".
Here are some known cases to make my point :
- Raid on Usama Bin Laden's residence and killing him by U.S. Navy Seals (Team 6) (2011).
- Hunting down high-value leaders of Al-Quida by U.S. special forces around the Globe since 2003, mostly by air-to-surface missiles from drones (Targeted Assassination)
- Killing members of the PLO, Hamas and other palestinian organisations since 1970 to present by israeli CT-units, either by shooting them with firearms or "painting" their cars/homes with laser to guide the laser-guided air-to-surface missiles and bombs toward the targets. (- Yep! in this context, it considers as a CT ops too!)
- Libanon, October 1985. Four Soviet diplomates were kidnaped by libanese terrorists. After collapse of negotiations, an Spetsnaz Team were send to the lebanon. They kidnapped some relatives of the hostage-takers, cut their testicles and put them in their mouth, shortley before they were shot in the head. The severed heads were then sent to the militia. Three days later the hostages were released. (- That's what I call "Soviet effectiveness", with somewhat brutallity!)
- During 1970's, 80's and a bit in the 90's, South African special forces conducted raids against various rebel groups in the neighbouring countries. As the standard operating procedure , they killed every rebel they could find. Classic Counter-Insurgency operations.
- Entebbe (Uganda) hostage rescue operation (1976) by israeli army special forces where all the hijackers but one were killed
- Hunting down the terrorists responsible behind the Munich Olympics (1972) incident by israeli Mossad's assasinators
- Killing IRA members in Northern Ireland in the 1970's until 1990's by British SAS. Operation "Flavius", 6 th March 1988, during which three Provisional IRA terrorists were gunned down in broad daylight on the streets of Gibraltar by SAS is a good example of such.
All of these operations have three things in common as the original hallmark of such these missions:
1. There were all carried out by military personnels.
2. There were all executed in foreign countries as opposed to the unit's native country.
3. There were (almost) No prisoners!
Note : An Anti Terrorist (AT) unit, is an elite unit in the police force (-almost exclusively, but not always) of every country who takes defensive measures (reactive intervention) to defend against or preclude terrorist attacks. These are specially trained POLICE officers. Beside operators, they also have crisis-negotiator who are trained in understanding psycology.
Iranian police "Hostage Rescue Force" and Iranian Army "65th Brigade"; American "SWAT"-team; Russian "Alpha"-team; German "GSG9" and French "GIGN" are some examples of such units .
Iranian Army "65th Brigade" sleeve patch
Any police/military organization can conduct AT activities, but CT are always conducted by Spec Ops forces with highly specialized capabilities .
Any "potato" unit world-wide wrongfully calls itself and its operations as CT now these days, with the help of ignorant media and politicians, although the correct term is AT (-if even so) ;-). Personally I find it insulting to those hard-working brave men in the shadows who risk their lives to protect us from the bad guys :-)
5) Consolidation operations : are long-term population security measures which protect the population and neutralize the insurgent infrastructure :
The classic examples of such these operations are fighting kurdish terrorists/-insurgents in the iranian Kurdish areas (c. 1970 - c. 2000).
- Strike operations destroy the insurgent forces, their bases areas, and isolate them from their support.
- The goal of Remote area operations is to create "islands of support" in insurgent controlled territory.
- Border security comprises combat operations to prevent and interdict the infiltration of insurgents or smugglers .
Another example is in Iraq, where since 2014, Iranian Spec Ops operatives are cooperating with the Iraqi & Kursih forces to fight against I.S.I.S. (DAESH).
Iranian Special Operation Forces are normally the first to enter and last to leave a combat area. These forces are ready, versatile, and able to operate and carry out the most varied of combat activities and pacifications in any environment .
They can infiltrate and exfiltrate undetected by air, land, or sea into areas other forces can not approach without hostile reaction. They have self-contained medical ability and are capable of living under harsh conditions with little support .
They are extremely flexible and expected to be proficient at mastering :
- tactical field communications (radios, infrared, microwave transmitters, etc.)
- field medical
- military intelligence
- weapons handling (such as light artillary, small arms, anti-tank weapons)
- knifefighting/throwing skills up to 6-8 m
- explosives (conventional & improvised)
- escape resistance and evasion
- structure penetration, boarding and securing vessels
- prisoner search/- snatch and handling, hostage situation management
- Close Quarter Battle (CQB)
- urban/build up areas warfare
- small unit tactics
- long range reconnaissance and patroling, skiing, mountain warfare, motocross/truck driving
- NBC warfare
- team training and leadership, individual and team movements
- and land, sea and airborne operations, among other things.
The idea is that any plutoon/team member can be called upon to perform other member's specialities if need should ever arises. Take it from me, when you're deep behind enemy lines, and I've had fair share of it back in my days, that need will occure, sooner or later!
Extreme environment survival is naturally part of their training. The differnces between the civilian survival and the military one are :
Tracking skills, useful for finding enemy soldiers behind friendly lines, or animal for food during escape & evasion are also thought during basic training, as well as counter-tracking skills, deployed during escape & evasion scenarios behind enemy lines.
- A civilian/advanturer chooses where to go for his advanture and therefore choose the comfortable and suitable path, along with the suitable equipment. A soldier does not have these luxuries. He'll be sent whenever and wherever crises/conflicts appears.
- A civilian can take many survival equipments with himself to the nature, such as plenty of food, tent, extra water, various tools etc. A soldier carrying his military load (ammonution, explosives, weapons) and other military equipments (- Typically 30-60 kg load depending on the mission specifications), can at the best take a survival knife and probabley a small axe/shovel.
- A civilan in a survival situation, doing his best to get detected and thereby being rescued. A soldier on the other hand, operating deep behind enemy lines, a shut-down pilot, or an escapee, must do his best to NOT be detected by enemy's patrols or inhabitants whom are actively looking for him, which of course requires entirely different skills and tactics, such as use of smokeless fire, getting rid of his waste etc.
Additionally, all special forces troops must reach black belt in "Combat Judo", (- Not to be confused with the "sport" Judo, being taught in dojos around the world!) the science of hand-to-hand combat, involving physics, psychology, human physiology and bio-mechanics. This style, originally based on the japanese traditional Judo and Aikijiujitsu which once were used by Samurai on the battlefields, has specially developed by Iranian "Army Physical Center" with its fast and dynamic tactical and practical hand-to-hand combat applications for the Spec Ops troops operating behind enemy lines and has classified moves.
The training is always carried out in as realistic manner as possible ("Simulated Reality Training") , and it's rare for soldiers to return to barracks without having picked up a few cuts and bruises.
Special Forces "Judo" sleeve patch
The minimum requirments for an iranian Spec Ops soldier is to be able to hit a stationary target at 200 m with an assault rifle (iron sight!), and up to 40 m with a submuchine gun, and at 25-30 m with a pistol.
With a sniper rifle he should be able to pinpoint the chest of a target figure at 650 m, and he should be able to hit a target figure moving at 3 m/s at 500 m. He also should be able to use an anti-tank grenade launcher accurately at up to 400 m and an anti-tank guided missile at 500-1000 m, and throwing a hand grenade accurately from 25-50 m when standing still or when running.
Spec Ops troops literally risk death during realistic training exercises. Deadly chemichals, explosives barrages and live ammunition are routinely used. Death happens sometimes! Not a big deal!
Iranian commanders believe that men, not machines, win battles; so the foundation for combat training is the fighting men enhanced by technology, not subject to it .
Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) was a high watermark for the Iranian Special Forces. They conducted extensive operations in enemy-held and cross-border areas .
Although their numbers were relatively small comparing to the regulare forces, Special Forces played a major role in that war, and their courage were unsurpassed .
All Iranian Army Special Forces & Marines are fully equivalent to their counterparts in the US and British special forces .
All special forces in the Army, Navy and Revolutionary Guard Corp are under direct command of "Joint Special Operations Command Center" and "Joint chief of staff" .
Additionally, each division in the armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force and Revolutionary Guard) must be self-sustaining, stand-alone entity, according to the Defense Department's guide line .
The Iranian Special Forces clubs (in the Army, Marines and Revolutionary Guard) are exclusive institutions and entrance qualifications are among the thoughest on earth. The act of joining the Special Forces is purely voluntary. Stringent criterias have to be met before a recruit is even allowed to begin the selection phase. As the result, the units have great potential for use in a wide range of activities .
Just completing selection, even if one is not ultimately assigned to the Spec Ops, is a major accomplishment .
It is originally based on the selection systems used by the British "SAS." and South African "Special Forces Brigade" ("Recce") with some modifications. (-1970's- a legacy from pre-revolutionary era)
"Selection" evaluates individual performance, self-discipline, determination, intelligent, good judgment, analystics skills, organization and team management skills, maturity, stamina, and above all, an individual's ability to function effectively under physical, psychological and mental stress factors in the chaos and confussion of battlefield.
The formal selection course consists of a physical fitness qualification test, such as covering distances of 40 km a day with full load of 60 kg and swimming 100 m with full load, and at some stages, with the hunter team at their tail, land navigation exercise, among others. All exercises are on the clock.
Finally, the recruts must go through a physchological evaluation and interview by exprienced officers, before being qualified for basic Special Forces training which takes 2 years to complete. However training is always an "on-going" process.
- Notice : All names of the units are translated directly into (or equivalent to) english for practical purposes.
- Units mentioned on this web site are known Special Forces units. However there are other specialized units which conduct covert operations of various natures, known to very few high-ranking individuals. Those units, may not and should not be mentioned here, for obvious reasons.
Master Para Wings
23 rd Airborne Divison :
This is the oldest Special forces unit in the modern Iranian army , and were originally trained by (and with) US Army Green Berets (1948-78) and israelies paratroopers in the 70's .
The unit has seen action in Oman (1970- 76) as the part of Shah's military aid to the Oman's dictator against communist rebels/-insurgents, and they along with other special forces have been most effective troops during Iran- Iraq war, specially for their ability to conduct low-level penetration into hostile territory [ HAHO (High Altitude High Opening), HALO (High Altitude Low Opening), LALO (Low Altitude Low Opening), "Base Jump" ] .
They are trained in any aspect of conducting special operations in land & at sea, and also counter terrorism/ -insurgency duties within the Iranian borders .
Other Airborne units : 25th Airborne Div 55th Airborne Brg 35th Airborne Div
21st & 22nd Ranger/Airborne Division :
Though and resolute beyond the norm, these troops , along with other special forces, are ready and able to fight any where at any time, in any conditions .They are specialised in strategic and tactical long range reconnaissance, and ambush patrols, among other missions .
All Army Rangers are airborne qualified .
"Tactical Assault Team" is another elite unit within the Rangers with counter terrorist/ -insurgent responsibility inside the Iranian borders .
Mountain Warfare Specialist
Marine Commandos (Naval Rangers) :
A brief history :
Modern Iranian Marine Commandos was originally trained by (and with) British "Royal Marine Commandos" during 1940's - 78 .
Since then, and as a result of lessons learned during Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), they have improved their techniques/ tacticts and equipments .
Iranian Marines is part of the Iranian Navy. This crack expeditionary naval strike force are experts in littoral combat/ amphibious raids and other tactical waterborne operations, reconnaissance, surveillance, and maritime interdiction operations, including protection of Iranian oil platforms in the Persian Gulf, and even coastal patrols (togheter with the Iranian Coast Guard).
More over , they are also trained to operate in wooded areas, deserts and mountains .
There are 2 Marine divisions : 8 th Marines responsible for northern part of Iran at the Caspian Sea, and 5th Marines operating at the Persian Gulf in the south .
They regularly conduct realistic training exercises with other Iranian Special Forces in land & at sea .
"Air Sea Assault Commandos" is another elite unit in the Marines, Elite of the Elite. They are fully capable of conducting underwater/airborne, underwater demolitions, navigation, and swimming with opened and closed breathing apparatus, and counter terrorist operations at sea (such as ship-seizure missions, or hostage rescue along hostile shorelines ).
The unit is fully equivalent to the British "Special Boat Service" (SBS) and US "SEAL"-team .
Special forces in the Revolutionary Guard :
A Brief history :
The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (often called Revolutionary Guards for short, IRGC ) was founded in 1978, just after the revolution against Shah, as a parallel force to the other armed forces .
It was, and still is, a loyal force to the fundamentalists in Iran. I guess as comparison I can say that the difference beteween regular armed forces and Revolutionary Guard is like regular German forces and SS during WW2.
(- I know it's not a good comparison, but that's the closest I could come up with ;-)
Rumors say that they have been sent to southern Lebanon as military advisers to train Hizboulla guerrillas and participate in their attacks against Israel back in the 80's. They had also seen action in Afghanistan with Mujahedeen (Northern Alliance) during Soviet occupation, in Bosnian war of 1992-95 at the muslim's side, on the Al-Bashir's side in the Syrian revolution (2011 - present), and in Iraq against I.S.I.S. (DAESH) (2014 - present).
If these rumors are true or not, I can neither deny nor confirm. However they have been officially denied. (- My site is supposed to contain DECLASSIFIED information. Remember! ;-)
Today's Revolutionary Guard is a total of c. 650.000 strong men, with its own Army, Navy and Air Force .(2010)
They are also responsible for training, arming and commanding of 8 mobilized volunteer divisions (- equivalant to the US National Guard / UK Territorial Army) .
Including 9 infantry divisons and 2 brigades, 5 artillery /armour divisons and 3 Airborne/Ranger divisons.
Each division has its own personnal & administration, signal, engineer, artillery, intelligence & security,anti tank/-airplane, liaison (political-ideological directorate, including Psychological warfare unit), chemical/biological, logistic& support and medical units .
Special Forces units are also responsible for airports and iranian passanger airplanes security (undercover armed response on board) and other important installations, as well as body guard duties .
They also have their very own Crack Units, The "Zarbat Team" ("strike"/ "raid" in arabic/persian), which together with another elite unit of IRGC, The "Saberin Battalion", is responsible for counter terrorist/-revolutionary operations both inside and outside the Iranian borders.They have carried out raids against CIA- financed & Saadam-backed Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) terrorist bases inside Iraq (until february 2003), also assassination of some high-profile iranian dissidents, oppose to the government, outside Iran .
Very little is known about these two units. They are equivalent to the British SAS. and US Delta Force.
I've seen on some pages on the internet about the Qods units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, in some pages even with map of the world and other stuff taken right out of fantasy!!! The word "Quods" is arabic name for Jerusalem. The name is purley religious, like many other things in Iran, since 1980. There are no such "special units" with this name, although there are some regular units with this name. I've personally seen boards with the name "Quads" over the top of some military installations and garisons around the Iran, probably for blessing or solidarity purposes, I guess. As I mentioned above, the foreign operations are carried out by the "Zarbat Team"-units, nothing else.
It has 2 Marine divisions, each with their own Combat Frogman regiments .
Special thanks to :
Some of my former fellow officers and colleagues who are currently in active duty and wish to remain unnamed