Link to a pdf version of the report here.
From the Preface:
Throughout its 40-year history, the Islamic Republic of Iran has remained implacably opposed to the United States, our presence in the Middle East, and our support to Israel. While attempting to strengthen its deterrence against foreign attack and influence, Tehran has committed itself to becoming the dominant power in the turbulent and strategic Middle East. Its ambitions and identity as a largely Persian Shia power in a region composed of primarily Arab Sunni states often put it at odds with its neighbors, most of
which look to the United States and the West to guarantee their security.
Iran sees itself as closer than ever to achieving its goals. Tehran has played the cards dealt it by the fall of Saddam, the uprising in Syria, the rise and retreat of ISIS, and the conflict in Yemen. It leads a cohesive if informal bloc of Shia and Alawi state and nonstate actors—its “Axis of Resistance” against the West. Meanwhile, a perception that the United States is disinterested and disengaged pervades the region.
By applying a rigorous lessons-learned process during decades of conflict in the Middle East, Iran has adapted its military capabilities and doctrine to account for developments by the United States and its allies. Although still technologically inferior to most of its competitors, the Iranian military has progressed
substantially over the past few decades.
To achieve its goals, Iran continues to rely on its unconventional warfare elements and asymmetric capabilities— intended to exploit the perceived weaknesses of a superior adversary—to provide deterrence and project power. This combination of lethal conventional capabilities and proxy forces poses a persistent threat. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force leads Iranian power projection through a complex network of state and nonstate partners and militant proxies. Iran’s conventional military emphasizes niche capabilities and guerilla style tactics against its technologically advanced adversaries. Its substantial arsenal of ballistic missiles is designed to overwhelm U.S. forces and our partners in the region. Its swarms of small boats, large inventory of naval mines, and arsenal of antiship missiles can severely disrupt maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz—a strategic chokepoint critical to global trade. Each of these forces are becoming increasingly survivable, precise, and responsive.
In more recent years, with the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, Iran has taken nascent steps toward developing a limited expeditionary capability. Iran’s conventional forces are now in the regional power projection game as well. At the same time, modern conventional capabilities will be open to Iran for the first time since the revolution, as the UN arms embargo is scheduled to end by October 2020. With these opportunities, we could begin to see significant changes in Iranian strategy and capabilities, as Iran becomes a more traditional military force.
As Tehran expands its capabilities and role as both an unconventional and conventional threat in the Middle East, it is more important than ever that we understand Iran’s military power and the threat it poses to our interests, our allies, and our own security.