Iran's defense minister said today that the revolutionary government plans to cut its armed forces in half, wants to sell its most sophisticated weapons back to the United States and would welcome the return of some American military experts.
The defense minister, Adm. Ahmad Madani, said in an interview that recent troubles in Kurdistan-compounded by fighting today in the Turkoman area on the Caspian Sea-have changed the antimilitary mood of the Islamic revolutionaries and made most of them see a need to maintain the armed forces establishment.
Adm. Madani said discussions alreadly have taken place in Washington between Iranian military attaches and between Iranian military attaches and U.S officials, who have indicated willingness at least to consider buying back the most advanced F14 fighter-bombers, equipped with Pheonix missiles.
U.S. military officials have expressed anxiety that the planes-80 heavily equipped models costing more than $2 billion-might fall into Soviet hands. West european military attaches here agree that Iran's current military disorganization precludes keeping such weapons system operational.
The defense minister spoke in the eerily empty old Imperial War Ministry building, where most offices are locked shut and the only guards are posted by Islamic revolutionary committees.
Madani said Iran will try to keep its less complicated, U.S. supplied F4 and F5 fighters flying, but he said about 200 American military experts would be welcome in that effort. He stressed that any experts allowed to remain would be considered technicians rather than military advisers and that no Americans who had served here under the shad would be welcome.
The U.S. Embassy still refuses to say exactly how many American personnel were here in a militarycapacity under the shah. Independent observers estimate that it was about 10000 out of more than 40,000 Americans, including dependents and persons in genuinely civilian jobs.
There were 900 U.S military advisers directly attached to the U.S. Embassy. Only 25 are said to remain. About 3,000 men, mostly American veterans, worked for the Bell company to maintain the shah's fleet of 1,400 helicopters.
Madani said he would also like to sell about 600 of the helicopters back to the United States.
A government spokesman recently said that 95 percent of the helicopters were currently grounded for lack of spare parts and that most of the aircraft were now "a useless heap of scrap metal."
Foreign sources here have saide there are enough spare parts but the Iranians do not know how to find their way in the highly computerized supply system set up and operated by Americans.
Madani said that in contacts with the Americans and British on the 1,000 Chieftain tanks in the Iranian army, there had been no difficulities concerning supply of spare parts of Iran might need.
The shah spent billions of dollards in oil revenues to buy mostly U.S. arms. One of the main arguments of the Islamic revolutionaries against the shah was that he frittered away oil income on an unnecessarily large military machine. One of the main complaints against Washington here is that it encouraged the shah's appetite for military hardware in a greedy attempt to get back the cost of importing Iranian oil.
Some Western military mem here say that the Iranian military mem themselves ave begun to realize that the Americans have supplied them with an American-style military organization that was needlessly cumbersome and expensive.
Madani said he would like to diversify sources of foreign military expertise to include France, West Germany and Britain and such Third World and nonaligned states as Algeria and Yugoslavia.
The defense minister said the current array of leftist and religious forces would not come under him but be directly responsible to the premier.
Integrating them into some sort of chain of command is one of the most serious problems facing the new rule.
Nominally, they now come under the authority of Deputy Prime Minster Ibrahim Yazdi, a close lieutenant of Islamic revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Yazdi serves as liaison between the Islamic movement and the government of Premier Mehdi Bazargan.
Yazdi is accused by his adversaries of wanting to create a national guard as a personal power base. Bazargan has been trying to reconstitute the shattered armed services but with little apparent success so far.
Just today, Bazargan accepted the resignation of the armed forces chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Mohammed ValiGharani and replaced him with a friend of Madani, retired Maj. Gen. Nasser Farbod, a member of the late Mohammed Mossadegh's old National Front. Madani said Gharani, who had offered his resignation twice before, was let go because he refused to recognize the defense minister as his superior.
With the exception of the Navy and the Air Force ground crews, who went over to the revloution and became its spearhead, most military units are now disorganized, even nonexistent. Gharani has said there was not a single solider in the barracks in Tehran when he took command. More recently, He has said about half the solldiers had returned.
The Islamic government has decapitaled the military.
All generals through rank of major general were dismissed, and Madani was given discretionary power to fire brigadier generals. Of the shah's more than 500 general officers, including police and gendarmerie generals, Madani said he has kept only about 30.
More thatn 40 generals are in prison, 21 have been executed, three were killed in the revloution and one committed suicide.
Madani said that the 80,000-man national gendarmerie, which was part of the 495,000-man armed forces, should be maintained at its original strenght. But, he said, the Army should be cut from 285,000 to 90,000 or 100,000; the Air Force from 100,000 to 30,000 and the Navy from 30,000 to 15,000 or 20,000.
These cuts will come in part from reducing the two-year draft to 12 months. About 60 percent of the regular army was made up of draftees. The rest of the cuts apparently are to come via attrition among professional military men who have deserted.
The fighting today between Turkoman tribesmen and revolutionary guards occurred on lands surrounding the city of Gonbad-e Kavus, inland from the Capsian Sea and 30 miles south of the Soviet border.
While official reports said seven were killed, and 30 wounded in street warfare, the BBC estimated 80 dead and said truckloads of soldiers were seen entering the city of about 40,000.