The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
— Marcel Proust, 1871 - 1922
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Iran

Background

Iran

Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and Shah Mohammad Reza PAHLAVI was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces established a theocratic system of government with ultimate political authority vested in a learned religious scholar referred to commonly as the Supreme Leader who, according to the constitution, is accountable only to the Assembly of Experts - a popularly elected 86-member body of clerics. US-Iranian 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 and 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, UN, and EU economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement in terrorism and its nuclear weapons ambitions. Following the election of reformer Hojjat ol-Eslam Mohammad KHATAMI as president in 1997 and a reformist Majles (legislature) in 2000, a campaign to foster political reform in response to popular dissatisfaction was initiated. The movement floundered as conservative politicians, through the control of unelected institutions, prevented reform measures from being enacted and increased repressive measures. Starting with nationwide municipal elections in 2003 and continuing through Majles elections in 2004, conservatives reestablished control over Iran's elected government institutions, which culminated with the August 2005 inauguration of hardliner Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD as president. His controversial reelection in June 2009 sparked nationwide protests over allegations of electoral fraud. The UN Security Council has passed a number of resolutions (1696 in July 2006, 1737 in December 2006, 1747 in March 2007, 1803 in March 2008, and 1835 in September 2008) calling for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities and comply with its IAEA obligations and responsibilities. Resolutions 1737, 1477, and 1803 subject a number of Iranian individuals and entities involved in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs to sanctions. Additionally, several Iranian entities are subject to US sanctions under Executive Order 13382 designations for proliferation activities and EO 13224 designations for support of terrorism.

About

Iran (Persian: ايران) is a large country between the Middle East and Central Asia, between the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea. It is bordered by Iraq to the west, Turkey, Azerbaijan's Naxcivan enclave, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to the northwest, Turkmenistan to the northeast, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the southeast.

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Iran

Full name
Islamic Republic of Iran
Capital
Tehran
Location

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

Area comparative

slightly smaller than Alaska

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

Coastline

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

Climate

mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast

Terrain

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

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

Population

76,923,300 (July 2010 est.)

Ethnic groups

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

Religions

Muslim 98% (Shia 89%, Sunni 9%), other (includes Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i) 2%

Languages

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

Government type

theocratic republic

Independence

1 April 1979 (Islamic Republic of Iran proclaimed); notable earlier dates ca. 625 B.C. (unification of Iran under the Medes); ca. A.D. 1501 (Iran reunified under the Safavids); 12 December 1925 (modern Iran established under the Pahlavis)

National holiday

Republic Day, 1 April (1979)

Chief of state

Supreme Leader Ali Hoseini-KHAMENEI (since 4 June 1989)

Head of government

President Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD (since 3 August 2005); First Vice President Mohammad Reza RAHIMI (since 13 September 2009)

Internet country code

.ir

Internet users

8.214 million (2009)

Airports

319 (2010)

Ports and terminals

Assaluyeh, Bandar Abbas, Bandar-e-Eman Khomeyni

Other countries in the region