With Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reaffirming the notion not only that export of revolution is a central pillar of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ideology, but also that it should be undertaken militarily, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has increased in stature as a tool of Iranian foreign policy. While conscripts into the regular Iranian Army often complain of their conditions, Revolutionary Guardsmen enjoy a privileged position and first choice in equipment.
Iranian authorities often brag about advancement in education and technology in the 35 years since the Islamic Revolution. Iranian engineers and research scientists—many educated abroad, including at American colleges and universities—have become a formidable presence. The state, however, directs much of its research toward military or nuclear applications. While Iran’s nuclear scientists might receive the international limelight, both because of their mission and, in recent years, the assassination campaigns waged against them, the topics of Iranian military research are far broader.
If Iranian claims of developing a new, more effective bulletproof vest are accurate, then Revolutionary Guardsmen may soon upgrade their kit further. Iranian defense officials brag that the new bulletproof vests, inspired by fish scales, can protect against small-caliber bullets and shotgun pellets, as well as shrapnel from grenades. While Iranian officials might exaggerate the technological leap the new body armor reflects, such body armor certainly gives Iranian soldiers or their proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria a qualitative edge against irregular opponents, who often lack basic defenses.