Iran says it is major defense industry power - is it true? - analysis

While it is true Iran has made impressive advances, Raisi is trying to show that his administration is able to get around the sanctions and improve Iran’s standing.

 A military tank is seen during an Iranian Army exercise dubbed 'Zulfiqar 1400', in the coastal area of the Gulf of Oman, Iran, in this picture obtained on November 7, 2021. (photo credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
A military tank is seen during an Iranian Army exercise dubbed 'Zulfiqar 1400', in the coastal area of the Gulf of Oman, Iran, in this picture obtained on November 7, 2021.
(photo credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, in a speech at the Defense Industries Day ceremony in Iran, said that the country has become a global military power. He bragged, according to pro-Iran media reports, that "his country's achievements in the field of defense industries are achievements for all the Islamic world and lovers of the Islamic Revolution, not just for Iran."  

Iran’s defense industry is a point of pride because the country is under US sanctions. The Islamic Republic has had trouble making large platforms for its defense over the years, such as planes and tanks. This means that the big items, which cost billions, are out of reach for Iranian industry. In their place, Tehran has focused on missiles and drones. Some of this technology is under the control of the IRGC for its own use and also to be moved to proxies such as Hezbollah

What does Iran have in store?

Iran also has space and long-range rocket programs. In the past, it has relied on Russia, China and North Korea to build some of its weapons. Tehran has an impressive program in this respect, but much of the industry is not capable of being on a global footing with other similar military powers.

Iran often can’t standardize equipment or make the economy of scale necessary to really have an arms industry that is on par with Turkey, China, Israel, Russia, Germany or other countries. Nevertheless, the Iranian president praised the ability of Iranians to create an indigenous industry. Iran recently inaugurated a drone factory in Tajikistan. There are reports that Russia might want Iranian drones.  

A drone is pictured during a large-scale drone combat exercise of Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in Semnan, Iran January 4, 2021. Picture taken January 4, 2021 (credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA/REUTERS)A drone is pictured during a large-scale drone combat exercise of Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in Semnan, Iran January 4, 2021. Picture taken January 4, 2021 (credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA/REUTERS)

Raisi also praised the “spillover” of Iranian technological advances in the defense realm into the civilian one. Iran’s regime believes that its achievements have made it a regional and global power. This is evidenced from Iran’s movement of rocket and drone technology to Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. Tehran also has increased its naval power. He praised the ability of the industry to make “progress in the field of defense industries, despite the pressures and sanctions of enemies." 

The Iranian president stressed that "Iran's defense industries are a pride for Iran, and we are continuing the march of progress and industrial development in this field," stressing that the country "today is stronger than ever, and our enemies are weaker than ever,” according to Al-Mayadeen and Tasnim News.

“Let the enemies of Iran know that we are determined to continue the process of developing our defense industries, and the hand of the enemies will be cut off from the region.”

Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi

"Let the enemies of Iran know that we are determined to continue the process of developing our defense industries, and the hand of the enemies will be cut off from the region,” he said.

The comments by Iran’s presidents are mostly for internal consumption and propaganda. While it is true Iran has made impressive advances, he is also trying to show that his administration is able to get around the sanctions and improve Iran’s standing. This is all about claiming that the advances in the defense field will trickle down as profits to average people in other fields, even as the Islamic Republic faces numerous economic and environmental hurdles.