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Iran

   *Country Profile [CIA, 2008]
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 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. 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 and UN economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement in terrorism and conventional weapons proliferation. Following the election of reformer Hojjat ol-Eslam Mohammad KHATAMI as president in 1997 and similarly a reformer Majles (parliament) 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. In December 2006 and March 2007, the international community passed resolutions 1737 and 1747 respectively after Iran failed to comply with UN demands to halt the enrichment of uranium or to agree to full IAEA oversight of its nuclear program. In October 2007, Iranian entities were also subject to US sanctions under EO 13382 designations for proliferation activities and EO 13224 designations for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.

Location

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

Coordinates

32 0' N 53 0' E

Capital

Tehran

Main Cities

Abadan, Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz

Area

1648000 km2

Boundaries (km)

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

Coastline (km)

2,440 (plus 740 km border with the Caspian Sea)

Timezone (GMT)

3.5

Population

65,875,223 (July 2008 est.) (Demographics)

Public Holidays

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)

Currency

Iranian rial (IRR)

GDP

$753 billion (2007 est.) (Economic data)

Main Exports

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

Climate

mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast

Natural Hazards

periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes along western border and in the northeast

Physical Features

Elburz Mountains, Zagros Mountains, Caspian Sea (371,000 km2), Kavir desert (260,000 km2)

Environmental Agreements

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

 

   *Population and Demographics

Iran has a population of 65,875,223 (July 2008 est.) .

Capital

Tehran

Main urban areas

Abadan, Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz

Ethnic groups

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

Languages spoken

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

 

  *Geographic Data
Iran is located in Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan, in the timezone GMT 3.5. The country has boundaries of 5,440 - Afghanistan 936, Armenia 35, Azerbaijan-proper 432, Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave 179, Iraq 1,458, Pakistan 909, Turkey 499, Turkmenistan 992 (km), and a coastline of 2,440 (plus 740 km border with the Caspian Sea) (km). Major urban areas: Tehran, Abadan, Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz.

Elevations
Lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
Highest point: Kuh-e Damavand 5,671 m

Physical Features
Elburz Mountains, Zagros Mountains, Caspian Sea (371,000 km2), Kavir desert (260,000 km2)

Hazards
Periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes along western border and in the northeast

Climate
Mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast

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)

Renewable Water Resources
137.5 cu km (1997)

Fresh Water Withdrawal
total: 72.88 cu km/yr (7%/2%/91%) per capita: 1,048 cu m/yr (2000)

Environmental 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