The Iranian armed forces conducted a series of large-scale exercises in January to prepare for and deter an attack in the last days of the Trump administration. These exercises follow Tehran ramping up its nuclear program to pressure the Biden administration and set conditions for anticipated negotiations on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Iran appears to have been concerned that these actions and a desire to set back the nuclear program in the Trump administration’s final days might prompt either the US or Israel to launch a military strike. The regime conducted a dramatic array of military exercises and high-level inspections of the units and capabilities it would need to defend against and respond to such a strike. The armed forces revealed in that process a glimpse of the approaches they would take in such a conflict.
The exercises began on January 2, 2021, and concluded on January 23, and another began on February 11. They involved ground, aviation, naval, and air units from almost all of Iran’s military services. The participation of the most senior commanders from the conventional military (the Artesh) and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) underscores the high priority the regime places on reinforcing deterrence and signaling Iranian capabilities.