If history is a stage on which the fate of nations is played out, knowing when to step in and when to bow out is of crucial importance.
He created the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a parallel to the national army.
However, very soon it became apparent that the grand design could not be realized without destroying or at least weakening Western-style state structures already in place.
The states targeted had more or less strong armed forces that would resist an Iranian takeover.
The Lebanese branch of Hezbollah has given Iran value for money to the point of sustaining thousands of casualties in combat in the 2006 mini-war with Israel and, more importantly, the campaign to crush Assad's opponents in Syria.
In Iraq, the Iranian scheme has had partial results.