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Iran says it will build, upgrade as many as 800 battle tanks

Hassan Rouhani, President, Islamic Republic of Iran, at the United Nations on Sept. 18, 2017 in New York City. (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran’s Deputy Defense Minister Reza Mozaffarinia says Tehran has plans to manufacture or upgrade 700 to 800 battle tanks.

In remarks quoted on July 18 by Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Mozaffarinia did not specify the type of tanks he was referring to or how many would be newly built compared to how many would be upgraded.

He also did not mention a timeline for the completion of the project.

“Annually, there are 50 to 60 tanks manufactured and a sufficient budget has been allocated because the army and Revolutionary Guards have a great need,” Mozaffarinia said.

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The United States and European powers have long sought to curb Iran’s ballistic-missile program.

But Iran’s conventional military forces are thought to be weaker than its main regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Iran’s military expenditure as a percentage of GDP was 2.69 percent in 2015, while Saudi Arabia’s was 9.86 percent in 2016.

In a December report, the International Institute for Strategic Studies predicted that Iran would modernize and rebalance its conventional forces “to reflect lessons learned in Syria.”

Iranian forces have been fighting in Syria since 2012 in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Based on reporting by Reuters and Tasnim