Created: 8/21/1980

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Director of Central

) Secrot -

Military Options in Iran

Special National Intdlicenee Estimate

Declassified and Approved lor Release by tne Central Intelligence Agencyol

Top Secret;


soviet military options in iran


The foJbwing inteHigence organizoliom participated in the preparation of the Estknata:

Ihe Cartrd tnte&gcnce Agency.gency, (he Department of Stole, and the Notional Security Agency.

Also Participating:

the AiMilont Chief ol Staff for Intelligence, Deportment of the Army the Director of Naval InteKgcnce, Deportraenl of theIhehief of Staff, irrte&gtnce. Department of the Air force Ihe Director of intefcgence, Heodqwo-ter, Marine Carpi






Status at Military Preparations

Forces for Use Asiinsl 7

Preparedness ol the 1

Warning Implication* 9

A New Situation on MoSouthern

Factors That Could Precipitate Soviel Military Intervention in Iran

Factorsoviet Decision To



The USSR is taking steps to strengthen the ability of its forces to invade Iran, should Soviet leaders so decide.

On balance, we believe the Soviets liave notecision to invade Iran. We believe they are likely to pursue their goals in Iran without direel use of military force at least during the next several months.1

Crucial in the Soviets' calculations about undertaking major military action are their perceptions of US political will and military capabilities in the region.

Although there is little direct intelligence on Soviet intentions, the Soviets might intervene if they believed thai:

was an emergent low-risk opportunity to gain the enormous economic and geopolitical advantages that control of Iran would bring.*

United States was bent onosition of strength in Iran through military means.

Other circumstances that could trigger Soviet intervention are:

instability in Iran near the Soviet border.

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uo btamJom rr*detua.nW*

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nnumicnin He luiirtti lhal Maawi imiead fb SiwVi uodtn*lb lo imnue

'. raipKIranother ikott direct mluloni HWa-IIM. al ImMlb wnhutbabb nawoon ainwli M mforto" on Mowvwt imrioofefai ttaodtd lo prrtmpl aa amarttnn nnnri./ H'MftA In /ranntfUarv maoiu.

Ib Sewn uhII. a/ mm. /ind ike mnmroasaftaRtm rcfwv alor lauroentum, bul fbt*a httte tkoncr lhalolitical rtihafion wfflomrt mooev iboraai of lion mould no* nor knw cootiV ofd wminn. (I th*Imto "Jlnnw nmii lo lbo/ iran, and lha soouu uiuld probably ire nub action ai illdu lo

call for assistancero-Soviet faction in (ran lhal had acquired national or regional power.


If (he Sovietsalculated decision to invade Iran under conditions in which they believed they could choose the time, such an operation probably would includeoivisions and would be preceded by at least one month of activity to improve lhe preparedness of the forces We would be able to see much of this activityeek of its beginning, and probably would interpret it as preparations for hostilities, bul determining wlrether the Soviets had actually decided lo attack would be more difficult.

A Soviet decision to seize northwestern Iran probably could be implemented wiih three lo five divisions within two weeks. If the mobilization were limited to only those units that would take part, we might be able to provideew days or ateek of warning.

If the Sovietsituation threatening their securityas an intervention in Iran by USprobably could hastilyorce of someoH-prcp3red divisions and launch an attack directed at seizing major objectives in Iran, including some on the Persian Culf littoral, within about two weeksecision to do so. We probably could provide ateek, and perhapsays, of warning of such an attack.

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forces for Use Against (ton

H.vident* indicate* that ihe Soviet planningmilitary operations in Iran includes theround divisions (including one airboine) o( the Transcaucasus Militaiy Distriel. at least three of the four divisions in Turkestan, and at least part ofh Army in Afghanistan. AltogHhci the forces from the Turkestan and Transcaucasus Military Districts and inwould total someoivisions.

he sia divisions in the North Caucasus Military District also probably would be mobilized in any preparation for an invasion of Iran. In selecting other reinforcements for an invasion of Iran the Soviets would be constrained by the need to maintain lance forces opposite NATO and China

he tactical air iorces in the Transcaucasus and Turkestan Military Districts haveombat aircraft,n tbe Transcaucasusn Turkestan Military Dtstndv Use Turkestan tactical air forces are presently supporting Soviet operations in Afghanistan Aboutoviet lighten, most of them from Turkestan, are based in Afghanistan. There are alsoombal aircraft assigned to two training regiments in the Transcaucasus that could he used for operations in Iran

Hln addition to the tactical air Iorces opposite Iran.The Soviets also haveir defense interceptors in the Transcaucasus and Turkestan

ombal helicopters would provide support foi Soviet forces moving into Iran The Soviets haveelicopters in (lie Transcaucasus Military District, which could lie augmented ly helicopters from other military districts There are ISO combat helicopters inside Afghanistan and anothern Turkestan.

ince the beginninghe Soviet Indian Ocean Squadron has averagedour to sia allack/cruise missile submarines, eight surface combatants, two amphibious ships, one minewarfare ship, anduxiliaries In support of Soviet operations in Iran, these forces could be1 used to deter and counter Western naval operations in the region. Without sub stantial augmentation from either the Pacific or Blacl Sea Fleets, naval forces currently in Ihe Indian Ocean haveimited amphibious assault capability.

Preparedness of the Forces

jthe overallof the units comprising iRe forces has undergone relatively modest upgrading Although small changes

FactaArttiecnt Trarucauraiui Ml) TorinunhfftunUUn

Parentalorth Oof md ti- md OrKril am md Odea. md mokcw mi) Unl md Valga



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borne (All Cm. I)



aanlac: read* to own*.K mifvninc. ready lo move.% nunndic ready to

be diffIcull lo detect except over lone periods of time, most of the divisions ia the Trameaucasu* Mililary District appear to remain al low manning levels, r

he tactical ait forces in the Transcaucasia* and Turkestan Military Districts, untile the around forces, have been and continue to be equipped aboutat wiih those tn any of (lie other military district*.

here haveew Indications of increased pccpaicdnen ol tear set vices and logisoc* support forces In the Transeaucasus Military District

ome new ground forces equipment has been delivered to Soviet units in the Transeaucasus Military District, bul other than communications equipment the deliveries have been consistent with the generally low priority at which new equipment has beeninto the force* ol this district- In general, the equipment of the ground forces In the Transcaucasus Militatv Districtehind that lound in most other ground forces units in bolder regions but recently has been ungraded and ts better than lhat found in most inteiiot mililary districts

Warning Implication*

2-J. The Soviets could mobilize ground forceof the kind located opposite Iran, complete with authorized wartime levels of manpower andin about three days

jThey would have low combathowever, especially in the casearge-scale invasion ofwhere the distance* and terrain

difficulties are substantial, and otganited' resistance would be viiluallv auured

These consider*!ions lead us Io estimale thai il lhe Sovietsalculated decision lo invade Iran under conditions iney believe (hey can afford to choose lhe time, such an operation Is likely to be preceded by at least one and probably several months of activity to improve the preparedness of ihcir forces We would be able lo see much of this activityeek of its beginning and probably woulds preparation lor hostilities, bul deteimining whether the Soviets had actually decided to attack would be mora difficult

The Soviets couldore limited attack to seize northwestern Iranorce of about three to five divisions. This force probably could be readied within two weeks. II Ihe mobilization were limited lo only those units that would take part in lhe attack, we might be able loew days or ateek of warning

If the Sovietsituation threatening their security interestsas an intervention in Iran by USprobably would forego most of the longer term force improvernents discussed above and mounl an invasion as quickly as possible. Wc ludge thai ihe Soviets could hastily assemble an invasion force of someoll-prepared divisions and launch an attack directed al seizins major object Ives in Iran, some oa the Persian Culf liltoraL within about two weeksecision to do so We probably could provide aleek and perhapsays of warning of such an attack.

A New Situation on Moscow's Southern Border

the Soviets' recent militaryIran probably do notecisiona large-scale Intervention in thethey do show lhatnhancingto conduct substantial militaryIran on relatively short notice. At aindicate heightened Soviet interest inreversing potentially adverse trends.

heSrrviets and ihor Czarbt predecessors have long viewed Itanucrative potential addition to

' Tkd DOectovtrmew. tmd iV .terror ItutUtcenc* tSW do noi Win A- Jmrrfan. fWt are of opjmnna ihf Swirli wtlii "o'cunimf' reiuienoc /lomrurr.

IrtfnWn /ona< art "rOme" raaUerr their sphere of influence, and the currently critical global importance of the Persian Culf and Its oil undoubtedly has made If seem an even more templing target. Control of Iran would bring the USSR major-evenains. Il would shift thehe Persian Gulf and hence theonsiderable way in Moscow's favor. Control of even part of the region's oil would give -Moscow new leverage on Western Europe and Japan, and ainvasion of Iran would enhance Moscow's ability to intimidate other vulnerable countries in the Thiid World. Even If the Kremlin does not now think Iranian oil critical lo its own economic well being, it would help ensure lhal Eastern Europe remained dependent on Soviet-controlled oil, alleviate economic problems in the Bloc, and give Moscow new sources of hard currency earnings Moscow thus welcomed the overthrow of (he Shahecisive setback for lhe United States and as another indication of waning US influence in the entire Persian Culf. It created the possibilityro-Soviet Iranian regime, if not one enlttelv dependent on Soviet support.

n order lo capitalize on this situation. Moscow has sought to cultivate lhe Khomeini legime and pose as its protector. But the Iranian Revolution has not evolved as the Soviets might have liked. Iranian-Soviet relations have deteriorated recently and are now at their lowest point since the Iranian Revolution. Not only has the opportunity for the pro-Soviet elemenli In (tan that Moscow may have anticipated failed to materialize, butti-Communist clerics have become liKieasingly powerful and have sliown signs of successfully mstltuticeubzing their power.

Along with ihcir disappointment withIn Iran, lhe Soviets almost certainly have been concerned about recent signs that the Unitedrepared toore direct and active military tolc In the Persian Culf area now that Washington can no longer rely on Iranian forces: The Soviets urtdoubtedly view (Ise milKary measures that (lie United Stales lias takenlanning as Inimical lo their Interests and aimed at depriving them of legitimate opportunities to influence regional development Moscow recognizes that US capabilities In ibe region are limited, but it may believe thai they are adequate for an Intervention on behalf of interna! Iranian opponents of theregime, and it fears that they could grow.

In short, the Soviets see two advene trends at work in Iran: iheit reunions wiih Iran are deteriorating

and US mililary capabilities In the area arc improving. Their concerns over these tJevdopmenls aic likely lo conlinue. and the situation ishereumber of coolingcncira lhat could intensify then aniieties and conceivably couldmsion lo inlervene militarily.

Foctors That Could Precipitate Soviet Military Intervention in Iran

Soviets would be willing iotn Iran if Moscow's leaden came lothey could do so with relative impunity. That is,combination of cifcum&tanccs had broughtthe view lhat:

The Iranians would not be able or willing to offer much military resistance.

Soviel strensilh In the area had become sufficient louick military decision before effective US or other mililary counteraction could be brought to bear.

US resolve was Insufficient toerious task of US-Sovicl mililary confrontation '

* TV Dewier. Bum of tnlttii&ua iW AesranA.ol Stale, data not knee* thr USSR would torggegftsat'Iv /or apab miliur, ulmw ofCurrant drcumitamei lie Mfeofr lhal MeccoetVdiu/yrU uMU Uad tha Sovietith

WCI iithrough other lhan Jtrnt mtftur* latrrvmittm. el lent /or the near lenn.

ku otear the max WW, mean*onet (attmnuionouirlondntto*otvt IntrrvrntUm wot needed to prompt an Amert-nn mora lodHnon ol itrfigth In Iran hu (TTrfgiTII IMI.

Thr Sooted would. o{ omni, find lhe emergence ol a

ii'.'r UflUt repmeumpiinf reotoa lor HurwiUW. Out

inert ar**an lo or LnU thatt, that mxkpdutialmn more to orrtntt omky Ihe Bother* treat ol Iron taOuU not pat Montr* ami rot olould leave lhe USSH tolignljkantlv leu eJneiuefeouilo Influence In (hi- red ol Iran, and lhe SoiHeU would praklUir iei luth

actionelt tonlem roonleriiKeneriiiwi.

Moscow could decide toin Iran If Soviet leaders believed lhatStates was preparing to send militaryThe scope and nature of Soviet reactionvery much on whit Moscow thoughtwere. If the Soviets concluded that aUS militaty move was designed strictly toof the American hostages, they probablyintervene. If, however, the Soviets concluded that

(he United States intended lo use force toto-US regime in Tehran or take control of the oilfields, they might Invade and occupy all ot part of Itan to preempt the US move

The Soviets could be tempted to intervene If Ihe pro Soviet Iranian left had seized power but needed Soviet militaty assistance lo hold it In theio Moscow goveinmenl called fot Soviet suppml, il would legitimize Soviet Involvement This woulda real growth in leftist power, however, beforeituation developed on its own

Another precipitant of Soviel intervention could be the fragmentation of Iranumber of regional and ethnically based entitles The Soviets might in fact be tempted lo promotesreakdqwn of order in the northwestern provinces lo provide justification for inleivening Soviet efforts16 toa Soviet -oriented entity in Azerbaijan demonstrate lhal Moscow' has long had an interest in eipanding its control Inlo northern Iran. The Soviets woukl have even more Incentive to act if they feared lhat anti-Sovlel, pro-Western governments could emerge in the ptovinces bordering the USSRituation In which the authority of the Iranian central government had broken down and local authorities were taking control, the Soviets no doubt would provide substantialto leftist elementsid for power in areas such as Azerbaijan, Baluchistan, and Kotdcstan They would hope thai leftists could get enough control for enough lime toublic bid for Soviel mililary help Even withoutid, however, they probably would move into the northern provinces if the only alternative seemed to be governments lhal were actively hostile lo the USSR.

lthough the Soviets would be deeply disturbed by what looked like movement by any Iranian central government toward resumption of close relations with the United Slates,nlikely to see direct Soviet militaty intervention as an effective count eiegitimate government wete moving gradually inirection, the Soviets would be more likely tn Iry lo halt the trendombination of economic inducements and covert subversion than lo usethreats or actions, which would be likely to speed an improvement of Iranian-US leblrora and even result in an Iranian plea for US protection The Soviets, however, would be mote likely to intervene to preempt oiro- Western coup, paiticularly if they though! il had active US backing


Factors Comoviet Decision To Intervene

he mast important constraint on Sovietin Iran is (he possibility of direct andescalating military confrontation with theThe continuing Soviet pieoccupation withintentions and actions In Ihe regionMoscow has not discounted the US factor,public and private Soviet statements indicateclearly recognizes the significancewould attachoviet military move inhimself has publicly acknowledged Iheto the West of continued access tooil.

(hat Moscow recognises lhat both (he Unitcd"3tates and the USSR have vital interests in Iranin view of the limited US forces In the region and of our uncertainty about Soviet evaluations of US resolve to confront the USSR, we cannot completely in" out the possibility that Moscow believes it has (he military capability to deter orocal US military response and to intimidate Washington fromroader military response

ven if Moscow discounted the likelihood of effective American military resistanceoviel invasion of Iran, it would be mindful of the dangerew demonstration of Soviet aggressiveness could lead lo vastly increased US defense spending, accelerated US-Chinese military cooperation,ein vigor ation of the NATO alliance. Moscowrecognizes that the West Europeans wouldoviet move into Iran as far more detrimental lo their interests (han was the invasion of Afghanistan. Moreover, Moscow could anticipate similar adverse reactionsumber of Iran's Middle East ncifilv bon, who, though tempted to accommodate to the Soviel force ouUeur, might begin to cooperate with (he

Westerious long-term effort to coniain (he further spread of Soviel influence and power.

urther constraint on Soviet aggression would be the major efforts needed lo seize and control Iran Tlie Soviets probably recognize that they have much less support in Iran ihan they thought ihey had in Afghanistan at (he time of their intervention. Moscow must take account of the xenophobic nationalum and religious fervor the revolution has aroused in Iran, even if it is also awareoncomitant decline in Iranian military and administrative effectiveness.

Prospects ike Srntoe

hlefi betieot iktlhdamenu art ourrrlaled.

Stmtoo tUdanca loalke* ikekaoe.eet,eclaim lo tamada or oat to looadeoreoon.

lha lime frame "ol bail oof lha neit leuUo beyond our Ktdtwr To prvperlv reflect iktthe, heiieoe the

On batmoa me Wine lha SoeuuiifcrfV Io pwnur theirfamihotuou oi mulaai fort* ol Uoat aamretua orNoaathtltM. Ike USSR It fating itep$the ability of ttt foreet to iooade Iron and vuv do aoke SoaWu Mhmol Iranian doottow-iruouhreat lo theiror if fat US miarotnad In Iran.

e believe Moscow's calculations of risk and gain will most likely lead tbe Soviets to'pursue their goals in Iran without direct use of military force, at least over the neat fewoscow is likely to continue looss risky course In its quest for "secureegional hegemony, and global rnflu-eitce. Itt follow, however, lhat Soviet-Iranian relations will remain militarily quiescent. At awe eipect the Soviets to continue preparing for military contingencies and to create and lakeof any opportunities thai pcesenl themselves

Original document.

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