Organizational Chart of the Islamic Republic of Iran


The mission of Iran’s regular army, the Artesh, is to defend Iran’s borders from external threats. Its components include ground, naval (whose areas of responsibility include the Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, and the Caspian Sea), air, and air defense commands, with an estimated number of 420,000 personnel. Artesh’s origins date back to before the advent of the Islamic Republic in 1979, and as a result it has been viewed with suspicion on occasion as to its reliability in protecting the Islamic Republic’s establishment. But in practice, Iran’s supreme leader has implanted ideological and political representatives to ensure Artesh’s loyalty to the velayat-e faqih, or guardianship of the Islamic jurist. Its commander-in-chief, Abdolrahim Mousavi, is appointed by the supreme leader. Mousavi spent his career in the Artesh, with stints as its deputy commander and deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS). His predecessors have also been career Artesh officers, although one, Mohammad Salimi, had served as defense minister before becoming commander-in-chief. The current defense minister, Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, is himself a career Artesh officer, as was his predecessor, Amir Hatami. Other notable members of Iran’s establishment with Artesh pedigrees, include Ali Shamkhani, who commanded Artesh’s Navy as well as the IRGC’s Navy. The commander-in-chief of Artesh has a standing seat on the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).

Commanders-in-Chief of the Artesh:

(position established in 1998 after a reorganization)

  • Ali Shahbazi
  • Mohammad Salimi
  • Ataollah Salehi
  • Abdolrahim Mousavi