The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Persian: نيروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ايران) include the Army (Artesh), the Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepāh) and the Law Enforcement Force (Police).
These forces total about 523,000 active personnel (not including the Law Enforcement Force). All branches of armed forces fall under the command of General Staff of Armed Forces. The Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics is responsible for planning logistics and funding of the armed forces and is not involved with in-the-field military operational command.
Despite lacking the modern sophisticated military equipment its U.S allied neighbors possess, Iran's military has been described as the Middle East's "most powerful military force" (exempting Israel) by retired US General John Abizaid.
With the Iranian revolution in 1979, deteriorating relations with the United States of America resulted in international sanctions led by the USA, including an arms embargo being imposed on Iran.
Revolutionary Iran was taken by surprise, by the Iraqi invasion that began the Iran–Iraq War of 1980–1988. During this conflict, there were several confrontations with the United States. From 1987, the United States Central Command sought to stop Iranian mine-laying vessels from blocking the international sea lanes through the Persian Gulf in Operation Prime Chance. The operation lasted until 1989. On April 18, 1988, the U.S. retaliated for the Iranian mining of the USS Samuel B. Roberts in Operation Praying Mantis. Simultaneously, the Iranian armed forces had to learn to maintain and keep operational, their large stocks of U.S.-built equipment and weaponry without outside help, due to the American-led sanctions. Reaching back on equipment purchased from the U.S.A. in the 1970s, Iran began establishing its own armaments industry; its efforts in this remained largely unrecognised internationally, until recently. However, Iran was able to obtain limited amounts of American-made armaments, when it was able to buy American spare parts and weaponry for its armed forces, during the Iran-Contra affair. At first, deliveries came via Israel and later, from the USA.
The Iranian government established a five-year rearmament program in 1989 to replace worn-out weaponry from the Iran-Iraq war. Iran spent $10 billion between 1989 and 1992 on arms. Iran ordered weapons designed to prevent other states' naval vessels from accessing the sea, including marines and long-range Soviet planes capable of attacking aircraft carriers.