War! What is it good for?

War has a tendency to make you prioritise. When the bombs are flying, there’s not really any room for vanity projects or inefficiency. That’s why Iran’s bombastic entrance into the campaign against ISIL should have the criticality alarms ringing for SPND.


Iran’s Defence spending put them 15th on the list of nations worldwide for 2013 with a budget of over $17 billion. If that sounds like a lot, it is, at around 5% of Iran’s GDP. But remember that money has to pay for the IRGC (expensive), Iran’s missile projects (equally expensive), and any wacky ideas SPND may have (expensive, but you can’t really put a price on those mobile military robots and Space Cat can you?). With a bombing campaign against ISIL to add to the budget, it doesn’t take a nuclear weapons scientist to figure out where Defence Minister Dehghan may look to make some cuts. Redline doubts ISIL would fall for SPND’s mind control tricks.

Clockwork Orange

Due diligence is important though and Dehghan will need to justify any cuts to SPND’s budget. A good old performance review is in order. MODAFL subsidiary the Defence Industries Research and Training Institute (DITRI, مؤسسه آموزشی و تحقیقاتی صنایع دفاعی) holds the purse strings for SPND, so it would make sense if DITRI are the ones to review SPND’s performance and report back to Mr Dehghan.

So what is SPND’s business case to avoid further cuts to key projects and funding post-ISIL? SPND has had around three years by Redline’s calculations to make itself indispensable to the Iranian Defence Industry. The sales pitch was pretty obvious back in 2011 – SPND was going to be a modern defence organisation. War is changing. Iran needed an innovative approach to Defence (and somewhere to keep all of these people that the IAEA wants to talk to). Iran’s shiny new department even had the word innovation in the name, how could it fail?

Unfortunately for SPND it has all gone a bit Virgin Galactic; the dream being quite different from reality. Turns out the market place is already pretty crowded. Iran’s university sector, especially places like Malek Ashtar University, has been doing innovative defence research for years and are pretty good at it. Not to mention DITRI, who are kind of responsible for the same thing.

Skills to pay the bills

That said SPND does have some unique expertise. Their Radiation Safety Department (or Shahid Fakhar Moghaddam, شهید فخار مقدم) and Explosives and Shock Department (Shahid Karimi or METFAZ, شهید کریمی / متفاض) are well established and stocked with know how. But does SPND have a sufficiently well educated workforce to deliver new and innovative Defence technology? How many people working at SPND actually have a PhD? None of the Three Amigos Fakhrizadeh, Motallebizadeh and Naseri (فخری زاده، مطلبی زاده و ناصری) holds one to our knowledge. A lot of the Army and IRGC staff will be lucky to have a High School Diploma to their name.

How do you fill that skills gap? It must be hard to recruit in times like these. Maybe this explains why people like Sayyed Mehdi Farahi (سید مهدی فراحی), formerly the Head of Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organisation, would snub a role at SPND in favour of a position as Vice President of the Defence Ministry. Here he is trying not to laugh when they asked him to join SPND.

Sayyed Mehdi Farahi

Caption: I’d love to join SPND but I am washing my hair for the next ten years.

The whole kebab

As well as meaning a need for skills, a diverse set of priorities can have other pitfalls. Like a good Chelow Kebab, too wide a remit and an ill-defined mission can lead to severe bloating. Redline does not know how many departments there are in SPND, but we can say with confidence there are probably too many. We’ve covered those guys that visit the CTBTO previously. That’s got to be a different group, probably covering other treaties like the OPCW too. When you factor in things like Air Defence, Chemical and Biological warfare, Geophysics and Lasers, and now even Cyber warfare, SPND looks more bloated than Marlon Brando.

More departments means the limited budget has to be stretched across a greater area and inevitably projects lose out. If Mr Mehdipur (Head of Shahid Karimi, آقای مهدی پور) wants a new explosive materials laboratory he will just have to wait, and you can forget about that calibration reference laboratory Mr Foroughizadeh (Head of Fakhr Moghaddam, آقای فروقی زاده).

There we have it then. SPND is performing poorly. It is too big, inefficient and ineffective. DITRI you can send Redline our consultancy fee via Paypal.

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