Iranian Armaments Industry Targets Renewed Life
As part of efforts to jumpstart its stagnant economy, the Islamic Republic of Iran has targeted its state-owned defense industry at the global arms market. Experts believe that Tehran, with its strong production of small arms, could compete with China and Russia for sales in Africa and even Southeast Asia in the next five to 10 years.
President Mohammad Khatami, intent on reviving the Iranian economy despite U.S. trade sanctions that have hindered growth over the past 20 years, is looking for ways to boost gross domestic product. The defense industry is a main point of interest. Defense companies comprise15 percent to 20 percent of Iran’s total industry, according to Defense Ministry officials. Furthermore, those companies are only functioning at 10 percent to 15 percent of production capacity.
In 1963, the Republic of Iran placed all military factories under the Military Industries Organization (MIO) of the Ministry of War. Over the next fifteen years, military plants produced small arms ammunition, batteries, tires, copper products, explosives, and mortar rounds and fuses. They also produced rifles and machine guns under West German license. In addition, helicopters, jeeps, trucks, and trailers were assembled from imported kits. Iran was on its way to manufacturing rocket launchers, rockets, gun barrels, and grenades, when the Revolution halted all military activities. The MIO, plagued by the upheavals of the time, was unable to operate without foreign specialists and technicians; by 1981 it had lost much of its management ability and control over its industrial facilities. The outbreak of hostilities with Iraq and the Western arms embargo served as catalysts for reorganizing, reinvigorating, and expanding defense industries. In late 1981, the revolutionary government brought together the country's military industrial units and placed them under the Defense Industries Organization (DIO), which would supervise production activities. By 1987, Iran claimed to have manufactured an undisclosed number of Oghab rockets, probably patterned on the Soviet-made Scud-B surface-to-surface missiles the Iranians received from Libya.
Due to technology transfers from Russia, China and North Korea, Iran appears to have the know-how and production capabilities to mass-produce small arms, missiles and possibly chemical and biological weapons, Stratford news reported. These elements could combine to resuscitate the Iranian arms industry.
Although the international arms market does not lack suppliers, Iran may capitalize on its strategic location and its cultural ties to develop a niche in the Middle East and northern Africa. Despite reports from the Iranian defense ministry in 1999 that it exports arms to 11 countries, evidence indicates that Iran is selling only to Sudan and various terrorist groups in the region and participating in an arms show in Malaysia.
Today, many experts believe that as Iran slowly builds up its armament production capacity, and targets markets with prices lower than those of Russian and Chinese, it can become a serious force to be reckoned with in the global arms business. – (Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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