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Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and the shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces established a theocratic system of government with ultimate political authority nominally vested in a learned religious scholar. Iranian-US relations have been strained since a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held it until 20 January 1981. During 1980-88, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq that eventually expanded into the Persian Gulf and led to clashes between US Navy and Iranian military forces between 1987-1988. Iran has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for its activities in Lebanon and elsewhere in the world and remains subject to US economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement. Following the elections of a reformist president and Majlis in the late 1990s, attempts to foster political reform in response to popular dissatisfaction floundered as conservative politicians prevented reform measures from being enacted, increased repressive measures, and made electoral gains against reformers. Parliamentary elections in 2004 and the August 2005 inauguration of a conservative stalwart as president, completed the reconsolidation of conservative power in Iran's government.


Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan

Geographic coordinates:

32 00 N, 53 00 E


total: 1.648 million sq km
land: 1.636 million sq km
water: 12,000 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 5,440 km
border countries: Afghanistan 936 km, Armenia 35 km, Azerbaijan-proper 432 km, Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave 179 km, Iraq 1,458 km, Pakistan 909 km, Turkey 499 km, Turkmenistan 992 km


2,440 km; note - Iran also borders the Caspian Sea (740 km)

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: bilateral agreements or median lines in the Persian Gulf
continental shelf: natural prolongation


mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast


rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
highest point: Kuh-e Damavand 5,671 m

Natural resources:

petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur

Land use:

arable land: 9.78%
permanent crops: 1.29%
other: 88.93% (2005)

Irrigated land:

76,500 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes

Environment - current issues:

air pollution, especially in urban areas, from vehicle emissions, refinery operations, and industrial effluents; deforestation; overgrazing; desertification; oil pollution in the Persian Gulf; wetland losses from drought; soil degradation (salination); inadequate supplies of potable water; water pollution from raw sewage and industrial waste; urbanization

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note:

strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, which are vital maritime pathways for crude oil transport


68,688,433 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 26.1% (male 9,204,785/female 8,731,429)
15-64 years: 69% (male 24,133,919/female 23,245,255)
65 years and over: 4.9% (male 1,653,827/female 1,719,218) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 24.8 years
male: 24.6 years
female: 25 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.1% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

17 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

5.55 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-0.48 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.96 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 40.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 40.49 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 40.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 70.26 years
male: 68.86 years
female: 71.74 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.8 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

less than 0.1% (2001 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

31,000 (2001 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

800 (2003 est.)


noun: Iranian(s)
adjective: Iranian

Ethnic groups:

Persian 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%


Shi'a Muslim 89%, Sunni Muslim 9%, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i 2%


Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Turkic and Turkic dialects 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, other 2%


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 79.4%
male: 85.6%
female: 73% (2003 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Iran
conventional short form: Iran
local long form: Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran
local short form: Iran
former: Persia

Government type:

theocratic republic



Administrative divisions:

30 provinces (ostanha, singular - ostan); Ardabil, Azarbayjan-e Gharbi, Azarbayjan-e Sharqi, Bushehr, Chahar Mahall va Bakhtiari, Esfahan, Fars, Gilan, Golestan, Hamadan, Hormozgan, Ilam, Kerman, Kermanshah, Khorasan-e Janubi, Khorasan-e Razavi, Khorasan-e Shemali, Khuzestan, Kohgiluyeh va Buyer Ahmad, Kordestan, Lorestan, Markazi, Mazandaran, Qazvin, Qom, Semnan, Sistan va Baluchestan, Tehran, Yazd, Zanjan


1 April 1979 (Islamic Republic of Iran proclaimed)

National holiday:

Republic Day, 1 April (1979)
note: additional holidays celebrated widely in Iran include Revolution Day, 11 February (1979); Noruz (New Year's Day), 21 March; Constitutional Monarchy Day, 5 August (1925); and various Islamic observances that change in accordance with the lunar-based hejira calendar


2-3 December 1979; revised 1989 to expand powers of the presidency and eliminate the prime ministership

Legal system:

the Constitution codifies Islamic principles of government


15 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

unicameral Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majles-e-Shura-ye-Eslami (290 seats - formerly 270 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 20 February 2004 with a runoff held 7 in May 2004 (next to be held in February 2008)
election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party - conservatives/Islamists 190, reformers 50, independents 43, religious minorities 5, and 2 seats unaccounted for

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court - above a special clerical court, a revolutionary court, and a special administrative court

Economy - overview:

Iran's economy is marked by a bloated, inefficient state sector, over reliance on the oil sector, and statist policies that create major distortions throughout. Most economic activity is controlled by the state. Private sector activity is typically small-scale - workshops, farming, and services. President Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD has continued to follow the market reform plans of former President RAFSANJANI, with limited progress. Relatively high oil prices in recent years have enabled Iran to amass some $40 billion in foreign exchange reserves, but have not eased economic hardships such as high unemployment and inflation. The proportion of the economy devoted to the development of weapons of mass destruction remains a contentious issue with leading Western nations.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$552.8 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$178.1 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

4.8% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$8,100 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 11.8%
industry: 43.3%
services: 44.9% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

23.68 million
note: shortage of skilled labor (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 30%
industry: 25%
services: 45% (2001 est.)

Unemployment rate:

11.2% (2004 est.)

Population below poverty line:

40% (2002 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

43 (1998)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

16% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

30.5% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $48.82 billion
expenditures: $60.4 billion; including capital expenditures of $7.6 billion (2005 est.)

Public debt:

27.5% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

wheat, rice, other grains, sugar beets, fruits, nuts, cotton; dairy products, wool; caviar


petroleum, petrochemicals, textiles, cement and other construction materials, food processing (particularly sugar refining and vegetable oil production), metal fabrication, armaments

Industrial production growth rate:

3% excluding oil (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

142.3 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

132.1 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - exports:

840 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

600 million kWh (2003)

Oil - production:

3.979 million bbl/day (2005 est.)

Oil - consumption:

1.425 million bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - exports:

2.5 million bbl/day (2004 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:

133.3 billion bbl (2005 est.)

Natural gas - production:

79 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

79 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - exports:

3.4 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - imports:

4.92 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

26.62 trillion cu m (2005)

Current account balance:

$8.179 billion (2005 est.)


$55.42 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

petroleum 80%, chemical and petrochemical products, fruits and nuts, carpets

Exports - partners:

Japan 18.4%, China 9.7%, Italy 6%, South Africa 5.8%, South Korea 5.4%, Taiwan 4.6%, Turkey 4.4%, Netherlands 4.1% (2004)


$42.5 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

industrial raw materials and intermediate goods, capital goods, foodstuffs and other consumer goods, technical services, military supplies

Imports - partners:

Germany 12.8%, France 8.3%, Italy 7.7%, China 7.2%, UAE 7.2%, South Korea 6.1%, Russia 5.4% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$40.06 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$16.94 billion (2005 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$408 million (2002 est.)

Currency (code):

Iranian rial (IRR)

Fiscal year:

21 March - 20 March

Telephones - main lines in use:

14,571,100 (2003)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

4.3 million (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: inadequate, but currently being modernized and expanded with the goal of not only improving the efficiency and increasing the volume of the urban service but also bringing telephone service to several thousand villages, not presently connected
domestic: as a result of heavy investing in the telephone system since 1994, the number of long-distance channels in the microwave radio relay trunk has grown substantially; many villages have been brought into the net; the number of main lines in the urban systems has approximately doubled; thousands of mobile cellular subscribers are being served; moreover, the technical level of the system has been raised by the installation of thousands of digital switches
international: country code - 98; HF radio and microwave radio relay to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Syria, Kuwait, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; submarine fiber-optic cable to UAE with access to Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG); Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic line runs from Azerbaijan through the northern portion of Iran to Turkmenistan with expansion to Georgia and Azerbaijan; satellite earth stations - 9 Intelsat and 4 Inmarsat

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 72, FM 5, shortwave 5 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

28 (plus 450 low-power repeaters) (1997)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

5,246 (2005)

Internet users:

7.5 million (2005)


310 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 129
over 3,047 m: 40
2,438 to 3,047 m: 26
1,524 to 2,437 m: 25
914 to 1,523 m: 33
under 914 m: 5 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 181
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 130
under 914 m: 42 (2005)


15 (2005)


condensate/gas 212 km; gas 16,998 km; liquid petroleum gas 570 km; oil 8,256 km; refined products 7,808 km (2004)


total: 7,203 km
broad gauge: 94 km 1.676-m gauge
standard gauge: 7,109 km 1.435-m gauge (189 km electrified) (2004)


total: 178,152 km
paved: 118,115 km (including 751 km of expressways)
unpaved: 60,037 km (2002)


850 km (850 km on Karun River; additional service on Lake Urmia) (2006)

Merchant marine:

total: 143 ships (1000 GRT or over) 5,129,056 GRT/8,908,336 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 38, cargo 48, chemical tanker 4, container 14, liquefied gas 1, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 4, petroleum tanker 30, roll on/roll off 3
foreign-owned: 1 (UAE 1)
registered in other countries: 19 (Bolivia 1, Cyprus 2, Isle of Man 1, Kuwait 1, Malta 9, Panama 4, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Assaluyeh, Bushehr

Military branches:

Islamic Republic of Iran Regular Forces (Artesh): Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force (includes Air Defense); Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enqelab-e Eslami, IRGC): Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force, Qods Force (special operations), and Basij Force (Popular Mobilization Army); Law Enforcement Forces (2004)

Disputes - international:

Iran protests Afghanistan's limiting flow of dammed tributaries to the Helmand River in periods of drought; Iraq's lack of a maritime boundary with Iran prompts jurisdiction disputes beyond the mouth of the Shatt al Arab in the Persian Gulf; Iran and UAE dispute Tunb Islands and Abu Musa Island, which are occupied by Iran; Iran stands alone among littoral states in insisting upon a division of the Caspian Sea into five equal sectors

Refugees and internally displaced persons:

refugees (country of origin): 952,802 (Afghanistan) 93,173 (Iraq) (2005)

Illicit drugs:

despite substantial interdiction efforts, Iran remains a key transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin to Europe; domestic narcotics consumption remains a persistent problem and according to official Iranian statistics there are at least 2 million drug users in the country; lacks anti-money-laundering laws