BEIRUT — Iran will spend on its Revolutionary Guard next year more than double the amount allocated in 2021, according to a budget bill submitted by President Ebrahim Raisi to parliament on Dec. 12.

According to the legislation for fiscal 2022, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will receive 930 trillion rials (U.S. $22 billion). Last year, the force was given a budget of 403 trillion rials. The country’s conventional military, which last year received 212.79 trillion rials, is to get about 339.68 trillion rials (U.S. $7.99 billion) for 2022.

The exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Iranian rial barely fluctuated from around April 2018 to December 2021.

Michaël Tanchum, a senior associate fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy and a nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute, told Defense News that Tehran’s minimum strategic goal — beyond political survival — is to ensure the state of the region’s security architecture accommodates its national interests.

“The IRGC, through its use of proxy militias, drones, unconventional naval warfare and missiles, cost-effectively provides Tehran the ability to inflict costs on its neighbors to ensure this deterrent capability, as seen from the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing facility, the UAE’s Fujairah oil port, among others,” Tanchum said.

The Guard’s blend of unconventional tactics and hybrid warfare has expanding Iran’s sphere of influence to the shores of the Mediterranean and the Red seas, he added. From Iraq to Yemen, the tactical combination has made Saudi Arabia vulnerable on both its northern and southern land borders.

“With the increased budget, further advances in the IRGC aerospace division’s capability to use ballistic missile[s] and next-generation UAVs could shift the strategic equation in Iran’s favor without countervailing action on the part of Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” he said.

The president’s bill also allocated 955 trillion rials (U.S. $22 billion) for the Defence Ministry; 46 trillion rials to the joint military forces command (which essentially reviews military strategies and responsibilities); and 7.7 trillion rials to the Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense Base.

“The increased budget aims to replenish expertise and materiel killed and depleted by proxy wars in order for the IRGC to keep their edge for any external attack or internal disruption brought by failed nuclear talks, as well as lost resources and possible upcoming brinkmanship escapades in regional operations theaters,” according to Yusuf Mubarak, a Bahrain-based military researcher.

The Guard, which makes up about 10% of Iran’s overall armed forces, is independent of Iran’s regular Army and is tasked with safeguarding the Islamic Republic, which was formed after the 1979 revolution. In that context, Mubarak said, the Guard is considered Iran’s core military force when it comes to protecting the government. And if internal unrest should unfold, he told Defense News, Iran’s conventional military is not expected to be as heavy-handed.

The government also doesn’t rely on those conventional services to spearhead external offensive missions, he added.

“IRGC members have been systematically isolated — and engineered demographically and ideologically — to be indifferent to the people of Iran should they be ordered to oppress them,” Mubarak explained.

The Guard’s relatively advanced, homegrown ballistic research and development capabilities are derived from Chinese and Russian technology, he said. “This means that should advancing the IRGC’s capabilities and Iran’s regional agenda better serve Sino-Russian strategies against the U.S. and the West, the Arabian Gulf states most exposed to Iranian proxies might witness a spike in the number and complexity of the attacks through enhanced missiles and drones using Eastern tech.”

An April report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found Iran’s military spending fell by 3% in 2020 to $15.8 billion. The report said the decrease was part of a downward trend that started in 2018, when the U.S. reinstated economic sanctions over Iran’s nuclear activities. Iran’s military spending fell by 20% between 2018 and 2020.

Iran’s fiscal year starts March 21, 2022.

Agnes Helou was a Middle East correspondent for Defense News. Her interests include missile defense, cybersecurity, the interoperability of weapons systems and strategic issues in the Middle East and Gulf region.

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