A debate has raged in recent weeks over whether the Obama administration’s $400-million payment to Iran in January – part of a $1.7-billion settlement over a decades-old arms deal – constituted “ransom” for five U.S. hostages. The Wall Street Journal reported on August 3rd that the United States had sent the $400 million in cash on an unmarked cargo plane and that Tehran did not receive the money until it released the hostages. After being pressed over the suspicious timing of the exchange, the administration conceded that the money had been used as “leverage” to secure the hostages’ release, but rejected the accusation of ransom. Lost in the debate, however, is the purpose the money will ultimately serve.
Last week, Tehran finalized its 2016-17 budget, ending months of back-and-forth within the Iranian government over how the money would be used. Back in April, Iranian media reported that parliament had passed Article 22 of the budget, which required the executive branch to transfer to the military the funds it receives from settling legal disputes with foreign countries and companies. The following month, a member of the parliament’s presiding board confirmed that the legislature had indeed allocated $1.7 billion from legal settlements to the defense budget. As Bloomberg’s Eli Lake subsequently reported, the U.S. was “inadvertently paying” for a portion of Tehran’s military expenditures.
But in June, the government of President Hassan Rouhani requested that parliament eliminate Article 22 – a request parliament rejected. One parliamentarian argued that the Central Bank must allocate 50,000 billion rials (roughly equivalent to $1.7 billion) to the defense budget, saying this money belongs to the armed forces and that the executive branch’s excuse that it had already spent the money is unacceptable. He also revealed that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had approved the allocation to the military. In August, the executive branch yielded to parliament, keeping Article 22 in the final budget. Parliament passed the new amendment last week, and the Guardian Council – which must approve all legislation – ratified it a few days later.
There is no longer any doubt that the money the United States has paid to Iran will go to the Islamic Republic’s armed forces. It remains unclear how the military will spend it – potentially to prop up the Syrian regime, Hezbollah, Shiite militias in Iraq, or Houthi rebels in Yemen, or to buy heavy weaponry from Russia in contravention of the UN arms embargo.
Ultimately, the $400 million in cash that the U.S. has delivered to Iran – and the wider $1.7-billion settlement – will help finance Tehran’s overriding objectives: spreading its revolution and further destabilizing the Middle East.
What is clear are the benefits the regime draws from receiving these funds in cash. It would be far easier for Tehran to procure advanced weaponry from Russia and China, for example, if it can pay for it with hard currency rather than through the formal financial system, having to circumvent the UN arms embargo and U.S. financial sanctions. With bags of untraceable hard currency, Iran can more easily support its allies or illicitly procure missile and nuclear parts. Ultimately, the $400 million in cash that the U.S. has delivered to Iran – and the wider $1.7-billion settlement – will help finance Tehran’s overriding objectives: spreading its revolution and further destabilizing the Middle East.
Protesters torched the Iranian consulate in the holy city of Najaf late on Wednesday. The demonstrators removed the Iranian flag from the building and replaced it with an Iraqi one.
President Trump: Congratulations on a great victory. We all
watched from the United States and you did a terrific. job. The
way you came from behind, somebody who wasn’t given much of a
chance, and you ended up winning easily. It’ a fantastic
President Zelenskyy: You are absolutely right Mr.
President. We did win big and we worked hard for this. We worked
a lot but I would like to confess to you that I had an
opportunity to learn from you. We used quite a few of your
skills and knowledge and were able to use it as an example for
our elections and yes, it is true that these were unique
President Zelenskyy: Well yes, to tell you the truth, we
are trying to work hard because we wanted to drain the swamp
here in our country. We brought in many many new people. Not the
old politicians, not the typical politicians, because we want to
have a new format and a new type of government .. You are a great
teacher for us and in that.
President Trump: Well it is very nice of you to say that. I
will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort
and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are
·doing and they should be helping you more than they are. Germany
does almost nothing for you. All they do is talk and I think
it’s something that you should really ask them about. When I was
speaking to Angela Merkel she talks Ukraine, but she doesn’t do·
anything. A lot of the European countries are the same way so I
think it’s something you want to look at but the United States
has been very ·very good to Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s
reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not
good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine.
President Zelenskyy: Yes, you are·absolutely right not only 100%, but actually, 1000% and I can tell you the following I did talk to Angela Merkel and I did meet with her. I also met and talked with Macron and I told them that they are not doing
quite as much as they need to be doing on the issues with the
sanctions. They are not enforcing the sanctions. They are not
working as much as they should work for Ukraine. It turns out
that even though logically, the European Union should be our
biggest partner but technically the United States is a much
bigger partner than the European Union and I’m very grateful to
you for that because the United States is doing quite a lot for
Ukraine. Much more than the European Union especially when we
are talking about sanctions against the Russian Federation. I
would also·like to thank you·for.your great support in the area
of defense. We. are ready to continue to cooperate for the next
steps. specifically, we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from
the United· States for defense purposes.
President Trump: I would like you to do us a favor though
because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a
lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with
this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike. I guess
you have one of your wealthy people. The server, they say
Ukraine has it There is a lot of things that went on, the whole situation
As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller an incompetent performance.
President Zelenskyy: Yes it is. very important for me and
everything that you just mentioned earlier. For me as a
President, it is very important and we are open to any future
I would also like and hope to see him having your trust and your confidence and have personal relations·with you so we can cooperate even more so. I will
personally tell you that one· of my assistants spoke with Mr.
Giuliani just.recently and we are hoping very much that Mr.
G1uliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once
· he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that
you have nobody but friends around us. I w.ill make sure that I
surround myself with the best and most experienced people.
President Trump: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor
who· was very·good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair.
A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your
very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people
involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the_
mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you.
The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in Ukraine were bad
news so I just wanted to let you know that.
President Zelenskyy: I wanted to tell you about the
prosecutor. First of all, I understand and I’m knowledgeable
.about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in
our Parliament; the next prosecutor general will be 100% my
person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and
will start. as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look.
into the situation, specifically to the company that you
mentioned in this issue.
On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have
any additional information that you can provide to µs, it would_
be very helpful for the investigation to make· sure that we
administer justice in our country with regard: to the Ambassador
to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name
was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one. who told
me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree·with you 100%.
Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the
previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept
me as a new President well enough.
President Trump: Well she’ s going through some
things. I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also
going to have Attorney General Barr calls and we will get to the
bottom of it.
Your economy is going to get better and better I predict. You have a lot of assets. It’s a great country. I have many Ukrainian friends, their incredible people.
President Zelenskyy: I would like to tell you that I also
have quite a few Ukraine friends that live in the United·
States. ·Actually last time I traveled to the United States, I
stayed in New York near Central Park and I stayed at the Trump Tower, I will talk to them and I hope to see them again in the future.
On the other hand, I also want to ensure you that we will. be very serious
about it. the case and will work on the investigation, as to the economy, there is much potential for our two countries and one of the issues that are very important for Ukraine is energy independence.
We are buying American oil but I am very hopeful for a future meeting, we will have more time and more opportunities to discuss these opportunities and get to know each other better. I would like to thank you very much for your support
President ·zelenskyy: Thank you very much. I would be very
happy to come and would be happy to meet with you personally and
get to know. you better.
After that, it might be a very good idea for
you to travel to Ukraine. We can either take my plane and go to
Ukraine or we can take your plane, which is probably much better
President Trump: Okay, we can work that out. I look forward
to seeing you in Washington and maybe in Poland because I think
we are going to be there at that time.
Despite Russia finally delivering the S-300PMU-2 to Iran in December 2016, the Bavar-373 is commonly conflated with being simply a copy of the S-300. Iran had displayed numerous Bavar subsystems before the S-300PMU-2 delivery in December 2016, and even made a partial unveiling of numerous radars, missiles, and a restricted view of the launch cells in August 2016 – also on Defence Industry Day. Although Iran is suspected to have acquired an S-300PT system from Belarus, that is a 1980s-vintage system, with dated radars and 5V55K/R missiles up to a maximum range of just 90 km. While it is possible that Iran learnt some concepts and technologies by studying this system, any real relation between the S-300PT and the Bavar-373 is out of the question, not least because the Bavar-373 is far more capable, being closer to the S-300PMU-2 and S-400 in terms of performance and sophistication.
Not only does Bavar-373 sport AESA radars and a 200 km range missile in the form of Sayyad-4, but very clearly all these key subsystems look physically different and distinct from their foreign counterparts. Bavar-373 also has indigenous vehicles, and the missiles are launched directly (‘hot launch’) from square launch cells, rather than the gas ejection (‘cold launch’) system of the S-300’s circular missile tubes.
To help clear up any confusion I made this handy comparison chart.
|Comparison showing Bavar-373 and S-300 equivalent subsystems side-by-side: (Top to Bottom) TELs, Engagement Radars, Acquisition Radars, Battle Management Radars|
While the Bavar-373 is an Iranian system, it certainly does take some conceptual nods from the S-300.
Bavar-373 is a large, top-of-the-line system, and therefore not as easily hidden as the Sevome Khordad system that shot down an American RQ-4 UAV in June. However, it is still highly mobile, with the large 10×10 Zoljanah acting as the TEL vehicle, and most radars and command and control (C2) equipment being mounted on the Zafar 8×8 vehicle. Both trucks are clearly off-road capable. This is an important capability as although Iran has a large road network, it means Bavar-373 can be deployed almost anywhere. The only ‘semi-mobile’ component of Bavar-373 is the large Meraj-4, which is a battle-management radar with a similar role to that of the 64N6E/91N6E ‘Big Bird’ radar. That is mounted on a semi-trailer pulled by a civilian type tractor truck. This is not so much of an issue though, with its long range allowing it to sit in a deeper position and therefore have greater security compared to the ‘front-line’ radars.
In reality the Meraj-4 is not strictly an integral part of Bavar-373. But it is closely related to the system and has appeared throughout Bavar-373’s development, including alongside it in Bavar’s partial unveiling in 2016. It is a higher tier IADS asset, and its job is to control large swathes of airspace providing information to systems in its vicinity. It is a large array size, S-band linear AESA that can reportedly track up to 100 targets simultaneously. Along with this come advanced features that are detailed on a website called kowsartrading, which seems to be the successor to the short lived Iran Electronic Industries website. With ECCM capabilities including “Burn Through, SLB and SLC, Frequency Hopping, PRF Jitter, PRF Staggering, JATS, Pulse Compression, MTI, CFAR, Clutter Map, Low SLL Antenna,” Meraj-4 should be a resilient radar.
|Meraj-4 in full view in 2016|
|The latest iteration of Meraj-4, seen here in a new folded configuration, was present at the Army Parade in April 2019|
|Spec sheet for the Meraj-4 radar|
The Sayyad-4 was first seen in 2014 in TV footage that displayed even some of the early iterations of Bavar-373’s radar systems. At this time, it appeared as a very large white missile with باور-۳۷۳ (Bavar-373) just about visible on the body of the missile. It appeared alongside another new missile, the red Sayyad-3.
|Sayyad-4 missile (right) in 2014|
Sayyad-4 has a 200 km range, and maximum engagement altitude of 27 km. It is vertically launched from the Zoljanah TEL. It likely uses a form of Semi-Active Radar Homing, probably TVM (Track-Via-Missile) or SAGG (Seeker-Aided Ground Guidance). While ARH (Active Radar Homing) would have been an easier solution for a long range SAM, it would have been susceptible to jamming, and not been as effective against stealth targets (this is explained later in this blog post).
One of the more mainstream benefits of SAGG is that because guidance calculations can be calculated by both the missile and the ground radar, there is an added layer of redundancy that makes it more resistant to jamming. SAGG also tends to not give a missile launch warning to RWRs (Radar Warning Receivers), only letting them on that their aircraft is being illuminated. The inherent LPI (Low Probability of Intercept) characteristics of AESA radars enhances this advantage.
As of yet, it is unclear whether Bavar-373 has TVC (Thrust Vectoring Control) as in the S-300’s 48N6 missile. It is unlikely to have this feature, as its ABM role is only secondary, and unlike the Russian system there is no requirement for Bavar-373 to engage low-flying cruise missiles at short range, which is part of the reason why the S-300 has a cold launch system and why TVC activates immediately after ejection to orient the 48N6 to fire in the right direction. Iran already has shorter range systems without VLS, like the Sayyad-2 and Sayyad-3 missiles, that are more suited to low-altitude/short-range interception.
|The Sayyad-4 missile (serial no. SD4AM M4A) at Bavar’s official unveiling in August 2019|
|Comparison of Sayyad-4 (top) and 48N6 (bottom) missiles. The Sayyad-4 has a completely different fin assembly, no confirmed TVC, and slightly more tapered nose.|
|Sayyad-4 making a sharp turn after launch|
One distinctive feature of this radar are the 4 additional arrays on the sides of the main array. It is unclear what purpose these have – they may be SLC (Side Lobe Cancelling) arrays, sub-arrays, or even data-link channels. If they are sub-arrays, then it is possible that the small main array of this X-band radar is deceiving. The inward angle of the sub-arrays suggests they could be creating an effect called constructive wave interference to produce higher gain and effective higher range. This allows the radar to remain compact and have relatively low power levels compared to brute force PESA solutions like the 30N6 Tomb Stone/92N6 Grave Stone. The AESA TRMs of this radar allow electronic beam steering to align the radar waves to make use of this effect correctly. The radar being an AESA also helps Iran push down the power requirements for the radar. Iran’s defence minister said in an interview that this radar has 10,000 “elements” (TRMs).
|Bavar’s X-band radar array, with main components highlighted. main array in Red, possible sub-arrays in Yellow, and IFF array in Blue.|
Against normal non-VLO targets, the S-band radar works how any acquisition radar works. It may not even be needed if the Meraj-4 is free to support the battery from the back line. However, its smaller size and therefore superior mobility on the Zafar 8×8 truck makes it a valuable battery-level asset on the front line and earns it a place in the Bavar-373 system. This S-band component makes Bavar-373 a dual-band system (similar to the latest versions of the Aegis Combat System). This has positive implications for its ability to be used against stealth aircraft.
Very prominent is a large IFF-antenna on top of the radar array, a display of the radar’s high requirement for tracking range and numbers. It is a similar case on the X-band radar.
|Bavar’s S-band radar array. Red area is the main array, blue area is the IFF array.|
The C2 cabin sits atop a 6×6 truck that seems slightly larger than the usual 6x6s Iran uses for its Talash and 15 Khordad TELs and radar vehicles. While we have not got a view of the inside of the cabin, the use of a dedicated C2 vehicle (in contrast with medium-range systems like 15 Khordad that have the C2 cabin with the radar cabin) is an indication of the sophistication of this part of Bavar-373. Curiously, there are no visible antennas on the C2 vehicle for long-range communication – this is not surprising however, as Iran (unlike Russia) deploys battery vehicles at one site rather than scattered over a wide area.
|Foreground: Bavar’s C2 vehicle|
|Bavar-373 command structure|
Zoljanah was first seen in September 2012, sporting an unusual angular cab. In 2014 the current design was shown, with a much more sober cab design that was practically ahead of the front axle, instead of on top of it as the first iteration. This was possible to create more room for extra equipment behind the cab, seemingly for power generators and storage. Even when carrying a 30-ton payload, the 10×10 chassis is fully off-road capable. The quad missile canisters (twin in display and testing models) are approximately 7.5 metres long and extend to a vertical position for launch.
As the missiles are ‘hot launched’, there is an integrated blast deflector below the canisters, presumably to prevent too much dust being thrown up, or to protect any prepared surfaces that the Zoljanah TEL may be mounted at with its large hydraulic jacks. Possibly the most unusual thing about Zoljanah is that it needs a 5th axle at all – comparable vehicles for the S-300 need only 4, however, the most modern versions including the S-400 also use semi-trailers with 5 axles. Such a long vehicle potentially has additional space for growth if Iran needs to mount larger missiles on it.
|Zoljanah’s 2012 iteration (top) and current design (bottom)|
|Rear of the Zoljanah TEL with quad missile canisters and blast deflector visible|
Zafar was first shown in 2014. With a payload of 24 tons, probably the only thing preventing Zafar from being a TEL itself is the lesser length compared to Zoljanah. It is also fully mobile like the Zoljanah. The radars that can be mounted on this vehicle have a full 360° of rotation, with storage bins and other equipment supporting them. Each radar vehicle also has a command cabin at the rear, all equipped with beefy air conditioning units. The interior of these cabins is yet to be shown.
|Zafar at its 2014 unveiling|
In the test-fire videos (likely from some years ago), we see several differences with the ‘final’ versions of Bavar:
|This diagram depicts bi-static radar operation, with the closest radar representing the missile’s radar receiver|
Amir Ali Hajizadeh is the commander of IRGC Aerospace Force. He is a radical hardliner and an outspoken critic of President Hassan Rouhani’s administration. He is also the man in charge of Iran’s missile development program. He has been serving in this position for 10 years since 2009, meaning that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was also sanctioned on Monday, trusts him for the time being.
Mohammad Pakpour was on the list of Iranian commanders sanctioned by the US even before the 2015 nuclear deal. Like Hajizadeh, he was also appointed to his post in 2009 and is a highly decorated general. Khamenei awarded him a Victory medal.
He was subjected to US sanctions before the JCPOA, but sanctions on him were lifted after the 2015 deal.
Tangsiri has openly spoken about suicide missions against US warships in the Arabian Gulf. He has said he knows many individuals who can hit themselves, wrapped in explosives, on a US ship.
During the past months, Tansiri has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz.
Abbas Gholamshahi has been the commander of IRGC Navy’s first region in Bandar Abbas and in charge of defending the Strait of Hormuz since 2016.
Gholamshahi’s unit is the closest IRGC unit to the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
Ramzan Zirahi is the commander of IRGC Navy’s second region in the vicinity of the Bushehr nuclear power plant and has held this post since 2017.
His unit was involved in detaining 10 US sailors in 2016 near the Farsi Island and one of his officers was awarded a Victory Medal by Khamenei.
Yadollah Badin is the commander of IRGC Navy’s 3rd region in Mahshahr, North of the Arabian Gulf and has held this post since 2016.
Mansour Ravankar has been the commander of IRGC Navy’s 4th region in Asalouyeh since 2016. The territory under his command spans from Bandar Abbas to Bushehr and is located between the first and second naval regions of the IRGC.
Ali Ozmaei, is the commander of IRGC Navy’s 5th region in the Arabian Gulf area and in charge of the security of Lesser and Greater Tunbs and Abu Mousa Islands which are the subjects of a long standing dispute between Iran and the United Arab Emirates.