Much of the press attention on Iranian spending in the wake of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the lifting of many sanctions has focused on its ballistic missile investments or its efforts to acquire big-ticket military platforms: the delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missiles, Russian Sukhoi fighter jets, and T-90 tanks, for example. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest declared:“Their infrastructure was crumbling. So we know that they used a revenue from sanctions relief to start investing in infrastructure.” But that was nothing but speculation, and ignorant speculation at that given the reality of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ stranglehold over the Iranian economy.

Sometimes, however, it is the smaller purchases that give irrefutable evidence that Iran’s plans for the future include neither peace nor moderation. Hence, this article from an Iranian defense outlet talking about the Islamic Republic’s decision to purchase AK-103s from Russia. The article describes the AK-103, compares it to the M-16, and presents several arguments about why it is best suited for the future needs of Iran’s military. Among the most intriguing, however, is a citation of conflicts in Iraq and Yemen and the conclusion that the future of Iran’s needs lay with a rifle useful in urban warfare and close-quarter fighting.

This is worrisome. Consider what Iran has recently been up to: It’s used militias to supersede formal Iraqi military chain of command; it’s been involved both directly and by proxy in Syria, as well as in more recent efforts to destabilize Yemen via Houthi proxies; and it’s showing increasing aggression toward Bahrain and threatening Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it’s time to put aside diplomatic rhetoric and wishful thinking and to start looking at where Iran sees itself in the future and how it’s equipping its soldiers for the next decade.

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