Iran’s Zarbat-e Zolfaqar Exercise – More Reality Show than War Game

Iran’s Zarbat e-Zolfaqar military war games, which went into their second week Wednesday, Aug. 23, have been fully integrated in the national war preparations declared by Tehran this week.

This is reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources.

Iran’s rulers have taken into account the possibility that their refusal to forego uranium enrichment may draw harsh consequences. Therefore, the maneuvers staged by 12 ground divisions of the Islamic Republican Army for five weeks are in fact open-ended. They could be stretched into weeks or months, depending on whether the rulers judge the country to still be in danger of hostile aggression.

The commander of Zolfaqar Operation Headquarters in the Takht-e Ardakan area of the northeast, Brigadier Anoush Pour-Qasemi, said the maneuvers aim to enhance the military capabilities of the Iranian Army’s ground forces.

“It also aims to improve the pre-emptive performance of the army against probable enemy assaults,” he said.

But not all the other goals of the exercise were visible:

1. The commanders of the Blow of Zolfaqar claim to have successfully drilled the simultaneous dispatch of all 12 ground divisions for rapid reaction operations in seven provinces: Tehran, Zahedan in Sistan-Baluchestan, Mashhad in Razvai Khorasan, Gorgan in Golestan, Shahroud in Semnan, Tabriz in East Azarbaijan, Pasvenh in West Azarbaijan, Kermanshah in the province of that name, Khorramabad in Lorestan, Ahvaz in Khuzestan and Sanandaj in Kurdestan.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report that these maneuvers will have the effect of placing all these provinces in a state of war preparedness by early next week

2. No revolutionary Iranian government in 27 years has ever treated the professional army as mainstay of the regime; only the Revolutionary Guards corps enjoyed this favored status. The RC starred in Iran’s Persian Gulf war games last April; now, the Republican Army is being put through its paces, while the Revolutionary Guards keep to their bases in a state of readiness.


A rapid reaction force powered by a motorbike brigade


DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources explain the army is being deployed on the front lines to cushion the initial impact of a potential American or Israeli attack on Iran. The RC will swing into action in the next stage. The regime counts on the Revolutionary Guards for protection in Iran’s major cities.

3. Iran is making a show of the skills of its special airborne forces for defending nuclear and other strategic locations against hostile paratroop drops. They are displaying in action army commandoes, paratroopers, mobile shoulder-firing units, electronic warfare teams, special forces and rapid reaction forces as well as Chinook helicopters and drones, and a special feature: droves of motorcyclists dropped from helicopter which zoom a cross rugged country to target.

Iranian tacticians estimate that the US and Israeli will drop small commando units by helicopter to destroy the nuclear installations. They are therefore preparing a rapid reaction force including these motorcycle units that is large enough to swamp the invaders and liquidate them before they cause damage.

Another function which has aroused some alarm in Washington would take these highly mobile response forces storming across the border into Iraq and Afghanistan for attacks on American bases. Cross-border raids were also drilled in the exercise.

Iran is especially proud of its electronic warfare capabilities, claiming superiority – or at least parity – with any fighting force in the West.

(See DNW 265 of Aug. 11: Iran’s unknown systems Neutralize Israel’s Electronic Warfare Gadgets)

In its second stage, this war game is said to be demonstrating some of Iran’s newest electronic features, such as intelligence electronics, anti-electronic and anti-communications systems for jamming enemy networks, as well as mobile radio transmission systems with a range of 100 km for interfering with the enemy’s tactical communications.

The Iranians claim that their EW systems are not just intelligence-related but also integrated in a range of missile systems.

The Zarbat e-Zolfaqar’s spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Kiumars Heidari, announced that this stage had included testing of the new Iranian surface-to-surface missile, the Saeqeh (Thunderbolt), and shore-to-sea missiles.

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