U.S., Iranian and Western diplomats have played down worries about a looming Israeli military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, after reports of heightened tensions rattled nerves and helped drive oil prices near record highs.
Iran insists its nuclear plans are peaceful but says its forces are ready to respond to any military attack. Following are some details about Iran's military capability. The totals include equipment held by the Revolutionary Guards, which operate on land, at sea and in the air:
* ARMED FORCES:
Iran has 545,000 personnel in active service. Major General Ataollah Salehi is the armed forces chief.
* ARMY: The army comprises 350,000 men, including 220,000 conscripts. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, viewed as the most loyal guardian of the ruling system, has another 125,000 men.
In 2004 the army was organised in four corps, with four armoured divisions and six infantry divisions.
There are nearly 1,700 tanks including some 100 Zulfiqar locally produced main battle tanks. A large number of Iran's tanks are elderly British-made Chieftains and U.S.-made M-60s. Soviet-made T-54 and T-55s, T-59s, T-62s, and T-72s were also part of the inventory, all captured from the Iraqis or acquired from North Korea and China.
The latest Military Balance report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies says that some of the tanks' serviceability may be in doubt.
There are around 640 armoured personnel carriers. There are 8,196 artillery pieces of which 2,010 are towed, and over 310 are self-propelled.
-- In a 2007 parade to mark the anniversary of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Iran showed its Shahab-3 missile, saying it could travel 2,000 km (1,250 miles) -- enabling it to hit Israel and U.S. bases in the region.
Another missile at the parade, the Ghadr-1, can reach targets 1,800 km (1,125 miles) away. It was believed to be the first time it has been shown publicly.
* NAVY: There are 18,000 naval personnel. The navy has its headquarters at Bandar-e Abbas. Iran's navy has three Russian Kilo class submarines, three frigates and two corvettes.
-- As of 2001 the regular Iranian navy was in a state of overall obsolescence, and in poor shape because they had not been equipped with modern ships and weapons. The readiness of the three frigates is doubtful, and the two nearly 40-year-old corvettes do not have sophisticated weapons.
-- In late 2007 Iran launched a new locally made submarine and a navy frigate named as Jamaran. Jane's Defence Weekly reported last November that Iran was also building missile-launching frigates copied from 275-tonne Kaman fast attack missile craft originally purchased from France in the late 1970s.
* AIR FORCE:
-- The air force has 52,000 personnel and 281 combat aircraft. However, serviceability may be as low as around 60 percent for U.S. aircraft types and 80 percent for Russian aircraft. There are F-14 and MiG 29 aircraft.
There are also some aircraft impounded from Iraq -- Russian-built Sukhoi Su-24s and 25s. Iran also has transport aircraft and helicopters.
-- In September 2007, Iran said it had tested two new domestically-produced jet fighters. State television said the Saegheh was a new generation of the Azarakhsh (Lightning) fighter. Iran said it was being built on an industrial scale.
Alan note: not part of the military but still part of the paramilitary is the Bassiji (Suppression Force) that till recently has consisted of Arab mercenaries under Iranian commanders.
Worried by the growing discontent inside Islamic Iran, supreme ruler Ali Khamenei place his new Bassii Commander in charge of the Suppression Forces and the Revolutionary Guards.
And recruited close to two MILLION (very low paid) youths around the nation to act as manpower supplement to put down anti-regime demonstrations, even in small towns or villages. They receive rudimentary arms training but for the most part carry clubs, tire irons and machetes with which to maim and kill.
This releases other better trained and armed forces to handle more serious security challenges.