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Research Article

Towards a non-Western model of security assistance: How Iran assists militaries

Published online: 26 Feb 2023


With the 1979 revolution, Iran’s Security Assistance (SA) underwent a significant transformation, from fragmented and ideologically-driven support for Islamic movements in the early post-revolutionary stage to making SA the centrepiece of its national security strategy. This article explores Iran' model of SA by addressing the following key questions: How have perceptions of SA and its role in post-revolutionary Iran’s strategic thinking changed? What constitutes key elements of the Iranian SA practice? Is there an ‘Iranian way' of assisting local military partners, and to what extent does it overlap with other states’ similar practices? The paper identifies a two-stage process of evolution, arguing that SA gradually evolved into a strategic tool to build a Tehran-led regional alliance model, boost Iran’s deterrence capability, and counter the US-led collective security architecture. With a hybrid ideological and anti-imperialist rationale at its core, relying on human bonds and personal loyalties, mixing asymmetric operations with sustained force projection, and using a centralized command structure with minimum public exposure, Tehran has introduced a unique model of security assistance. The paper shows how Iran has moved beyond a technical view of SA to gradually shape a holistic model with interwoven messianic, economic, and strategic dimensions.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).


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