Someone recently asked me a subjective "who would win in a battle between..." question and I have to admit I don't know much about specific Middle Eastern military structures, other than IS.

What are the Middle Eastern equivalents of US Marines, specifically, those of Saudi Arabia and Iran?

  • 3
    Marines aren't special elite forces. Marines are specially trained army-style personnel whose main job is to be on naval ships. This allows the navy to concentrate on training sailors. The original marines were just army personnel. Giving them their own branch allows them to learn how to do specialized shipboard duties, e.g. fire fighting and repair, while in between operations. From the tone of your question, perhaps you are asking for the equivalent of Army Rangers, Navy Seals, and Marine Special Forces (newly restored to the name Marine Raiders)?
    – Brythan
    Jan 12, 2016 at 5:48
  • @Brythan No, I didn't indicate that I was asking about a list of special forces. But think we can recognize that in the current state of warfare, the US Marines hold a reputation as initial "boot on the ground".
    – nipponese
    Jan 12, 2016 at 6:36
  • If they put the "boot on the ground" from a ship, yes. But not many countries have a Navy with capabilities similar to the US Navy, so most countries have small marine force for small operations (if they have any) and rely mostly in the Army/Air Force.
    – SJuan76
    Jan 12, 2016 at 8:06
  • 4
    The "marines" as in "more indoctrinated than average infantry" of Iran would be the Revolutionary Guard.
    – Philipp
    Jan 12, 2016 at 10:57
  • 2
    I don't think this question is answerable in its current state. We'd have to know what you mean by 'equivalent'--specifically, which aspects of the Marines are you looking to compare with other military institutions?
    – user1530
    Jan 13, 2016 at 18:50

1 Answer 1


Before answer the main question, we need to understand the fact of the military organization. Each country has one way to organize their military structure from top to bottom; the US marines has some special trainings that others parts of average military forces don't. Made this consideration, there are four special forces to take into account.

Now, why take these forces into consideration? I had in mind the longevity of the force, the role played in the last 20 years and how much impact they have in the Middle East military scene; longevity because is a good way to see how old is the organization, the role played is to examine if they made some impacts and if the role worked succesfully, what was the impact they had for each scenario.

Saudi Arabian Army: This part of the Army already existed since 1923, the year that Saudi Arabia became a single state. Since 1945 United States trained and supported the whole military organization. The structure consists of 3 armoured brigades, 5 mechanized infantry brigades, three light motorized rifle brigades, and one airborne brigade. "Royal Saudi Land Force Logo" by Alhadramy Alkendy - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons

It also has five independent artillery battalions and an aviation command. They're very active since 1923 and they were participating at the Yemeni Civil War; almost 70% of their weapons are supplied by France and US.

The Quds Force: Usually, when Iran is mentioned, quickly come to mind the Revolutionary Guard (RG), the special forces of the Islamic Republic but inside the Guard, Quds Force are the special forces of the RG, having the all the duties and responsabilities but with the extra that they're responsible for extraterritorial operations. They were created in th 80's during the Iran-Iraq War with the purpose of give support to the Kurds figthing Saddam Hussein; they still supporting Kurds even when the war was over; the number of operatives until now still classified but there are approximations of say 5,000 operative agents; the Quds entered in the terrorist list of US for have "links" to Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. Important to detail that only to the Supreme Leader they respond for their acts.

Special Services Group: In Pakistan, this group created in 1956 are other group which is currently serving as active corps; they have 10 batallions and the number of soldiers of each batallion is classified; they have similar trainings to US Special Forces, mostly because the trainers they had were all result of joint cooperation during the Cold War and also had lot of chinese trainings but weapons included. Like all the groups mentioned they're very active since their foundations and the special detail of this is some soldiers who serve in one of the batallions are United Nations Peacekeepers.

Sayeret: The Sayeret is a reconnaissance units in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) with specialization in intelligence gathering and surveillance; others corps we mentioned previously are batallions or an entire army, but the Sayeret works as units, using non-standar weapons and having a specialization at insertion and exit tactics. Founded at first in 1953 by Ariel Sharon, they were changing in the organization until become what they actually are today. All combat brigades in the IDF have a unit with improved weaponry and training used for reconnaissance and special forces missions, trained to use advanced weapons and reconnaissance technology, as well as hand-to-hand combat. The commando unit, the most active, is the Shayetet 13 equivalent to NAVY Seal.


  • Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons
  • CIA World Factbook
  • IDF Website
  • What makes these "equivalent"?
    – user1530
    Jan 13, 2016 at 3:05
  • 1
    Those examples sound morel like Navy Seals than Marines to me.
    – Philipp
    Jan 13, 2016 at 8:53
  • Inside the Army, there are Marines and inside the Marines, exist SEALS, Rangers and others; I updated what considerations I took to quotes these special forces.
    – nelruk
    Jan 13, 2016 at 13:57
  • 1
    @nelruk In the US the Marines are a separate department from the Army. SEALs are part of the Navy department which is also separate from the Army and Marines, Rangers are a part of the Army
    – Ryathal
    Jan 13, 2016 at 14:53
  • Are you suggesting changes @Ryathal?
    – nelruk
    Jan 13, 2016 at 15:23

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