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Introduction Iran
Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after ruling shah previously forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces established a theocratic system of government with ultimate political authority vested in a learned religious scholar. A group of Iranian students seized 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 over disputed territory. Over past decade, popular dissatisfaction with government, driven by demographic changes, restrictive social policies, and poor economic conditions, has created a powerful and enduring pressure for political reform.
Geography Iran
Middle East, bordering Gulf of Oman, Persian Gulf, and Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan
Geographic coordinates:
32 00 N, 53 00 E
Map references:
Middle East
total: 1.648 million sq km
land: 1.636 million sq km
water: 12,000 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than Alaska
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 Caspian Sea (740 km)
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: natural prolongation
exclusive economic zone: bilateral agreements or median lines in Persian Gulf
mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast
rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; limited , 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: 10.17%
permanent crops: 1.16%
other: 88.67% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
75,620 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes along western border and in northeast
Environment - current issues:
air pollution, especially in urban areas, from vehicle emissions, refinery operations, and industrial effluents; deforestation; overgrazing; desertification; oil pollution in 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, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of Sea, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
strategic location on Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, which are vital maritime pathways for crude oil transport
People Iran
Total Population:
68,278,826 (July 2003 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 29.3% (male 10,279,588; female 9,727,668)
15-64 years: 65.9% (male 22,916,431; female 22,095,124)
65 years and over: 4.8% (male 1,625,113; female 1,634,902) (2003 est.)
Median age:
total: 22.9 years
male: 22.7 years
female: 23.2 years (2002)
Population growth rate:
1.08% (2003 est.)
Birth rate:
17.23 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Death rate:
5.54 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Net migration rate:
-0.86 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.99 male(s)/female
Population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2003 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 44.17 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 44.02 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 44.31 deaths/1,000 live births
Life Expectancy:
Population: 69.35 years
male: 68.04 years
female: 70.73 years (2003 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.99 children born/woman (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
20,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
290 (2001 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 10%, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i 1%
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
Population: 79.4%
male: 85.6%
female: 73% (2003 est.)
Government Iran
Country name:
conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Iran
conventional short form: Iran
local short form: Iran
former: Persia
local long form: Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran
Government type:
theocratic republic
Administrative divisions:
28 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, Khuzestan, Kohkiluyeh 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)
2-3 December 1979; revised 1989 to expand powers of presidency and eliminate prime ministership
Legal system:
Constitution codifies Islamic principles of government
15 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-KHAMENEI (since 4 June 1989)
elections: leader of Islamic Revolution appointed for life by Assembly of Experts; president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 8 June 2001 (next to be held June 2005)
election results: (Ali) Mohammad KHATAMI-Ardakani reelected president; percent of vote - (Ali) Mohammad KHATAMI-Ardakani 77%
cabinet: Council of Ministers selected by president with legislative approval; Supreme Leader has some control over appointments to more sensitive ministries
head of government: President (Ali) Mohammad KHATAMI-Ardakani (since 3 August 1997); First Vice President Dr. Mohammad Reza AREF-YAZDI (since 26 August 2001)
Legislative branch:
unicameral Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majles-e-Shura-ye-Eslami (290 seats, note - changed from 270 seats with 18 February 2000 election; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 18 February 2000 with a runoff held 5 May 2000 (next to be held February 2004)
election results: percent of vote - NA%; seats by party - reformers 189, conservatives 54, independents 42, seats reserved for religious minorities 5
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court
Political parties and leaders:
a loose pro-reform coalition called 2nd Khordad front achieved considerable success at elections to sixth Majles in early 2000, and groups in coalition include: Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF); Executives of Construction Party (Kargozaran); Solidarity Party; Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution Organization (MIRO); and Militant Clerics Society (Ruhaniyun); a new apparently conservative group, Builders of Islamic Iran, emerged at local level in early 2003
Political pressure groups and leaders:
active pro-reform student groups include "Organization for Strengthening Unity"; groups that generally support Islamic Republic include Ansar-e Hizballah, Muslim Students Following Line of Imam, Tehran Militant Clergy Association (Ruhaniyat), Islamic Coalition Association, and Islamic Engineers Society; opposition groups include Freedom Movement of Iran, National Front, Marz-e Por Gohar, and various Monarchist organizations; armed political groups that have been almost completely repressed by government include Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK), People's Fedayeen, Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, and Komala
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in US:
none; note - Iran has an Interests Section in Pakistani Embassy; address: Iranian Interests Section, Pakistani Embassy, 2209 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007; telephone: [1] (202) 965-4990
Diplomatic representation from US:
none; note - protecting power in Iran is Switzerland
Flag description:
three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red; national emblem (a stylized representation of word Allah in shape of a tulip, a symbol of martyrdom) in red is centered in white band; ALLAH AKBAR (God is Great) in white Arabic script is repeated 11 times along bottom edge of green band and 11 times along top edge of red band
Economy Iran
Economy - overview:
Iran's economy is a mixture of central planning, state ownership of oil and other large enterprises, village agriculture, and limited -scale private trading and service ventures. President KHATAMI has continued to follow market reform plans of former President RAFSANJANI and has indicated that he will pursue diversification of Iran's oil-reliant economy although he has made little progress toward that goal. Relatively high oil prices in recent years have enabled Iran to amass some $15 billion in foreign exchange reserves, but have not solved Iran's structural economic problems, includes high unemployment and inflation.
buying power parity - $458.3 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
7.6% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
buying power parity - $6,800 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 19%
industry: 26%
services: 55% (2002 est.)
Population below poverty line:
40% (2002 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
15.3% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
21 million
note: shortage of skilled labor (1998)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 30%, industry 25%, services 45% (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate:
16.3% (2003 est.)
revenues: $29.5 billion
expenditures: $31.6 billion, includes capital expenditures of $NA (2002 est.)
petroleum, petrochemicals, textiles, cement and other construction materials, food processing (particularly sugar refining and vegetable oil production), metal fabricating, armaments
Industrial production growth rate:
5.5% excluding oil (2001 est.)
Electricity - production:
124.6 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 97.1%
hydro: 2.9%
other: 0% (2001)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
115.9 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
3.804 million bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
1.277 million bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
NA (2001)
Oil - imports:
NA (2001)
Oil - proved reserves:
94.39 billion bbl (37257)
Natural gas - production:
61.5 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
65.59 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
110 million cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
4.2 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
24.8 trillion cu m (37257)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, rice, other grains, sugar beets, fruits, nuts, cotton; dairy products, wool; caviar
$24.8 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities:
petroleum 85%, carpets, fruits and nuts, iron and steel, chemicals
Exports - partners:
Japan 17.4%, China 8.6%, UAE 7.6%, Italy 6.6%, South Korea 4.9%, South Africa 4.4% (2002)
$21.8 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Imports - commodities:
industrial raw materials and intermediate goods, capital goods, foodstuffs and other consumer goods, technical services, military supplies
Imports - partners:
Germany 10.9%, Italy 9%, France 7.9%, China 7.4%, South Korea 6.5%, UAE 4.4%, Japan 4.1%, Russia 4% (2002)
Debt - external:
$8.7 billion (2002 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$408 million (2002 est.)
Iranian rial (IRR)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
rials per US dollar 6,906.96 (2002), 1,753.56 (2001), 1,764.43 (2000), 1,752.93 (1999), 1,751.86 (1998)
note: from 1997 to 2001, Iran had a multi-exchange-rate system; one of these rates, official floating exchange rate, by which most essential goods were imported, averaged 1,750 rials per US dollar; in March 2002, multi-exchange-rate system previously converged into one rate at about 7,900 rials per US dollar
Fiscal year:
21 March - 20 March
Communications Iran
Telephones - main lines in use:
6.313 million (1997)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
265,000 (August 1998)
Telephone system:
general assessment: inadequate but currently being modernized and expanded with goal of not only improving efficiency and increasing volume of urban service but also bringing telephone service to several thousand villages, not presently connected
domestic: as a result of heavy investing in telephone system since 1994, number of long-distance channels in microwave radio relay trunk has grown substantially; many villages have been brought into net; number of main lines in urban systems has approximately doubled; and thousands of mobile cellular subscribers are being served; moreover, technical level of system has been raised by installation of thousands of digital switches
international: 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 Globe (FLAG); Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic line runs from Azerbaijan through 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)
17 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
28 (plus 450 low-power repeaters) (1997)
4.61 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
100 (2002)
Internet users:
1.326 million (2002 est.)
Transportation Iran
total: 7,201 km
broad gauge: 94 km 1.676-m gauge
standard gauge: 7,107 km 1.435-m gauge (146 km electrified) (2002)
total: 167,157 km
paved: 94,109 km (including 890 km of expressways)
unpaved: 73,048 km (1998)
904 km
note: Shatt al Arab is usually navigable by maritime traffic for about 130 km; channel has been dredged to 3 m and is in use
condensate/gas 212 km; gas 16,998 km; liquid petroleum gas 570 km; oil 8,256 km; refined products 7,808 km (2003)
Ports and harbors:
Abadan (largely destroyed in fighting during 1980-88 war), Ahvaz, Bandar 'Abbas, Bandar-e Anzali, Bushehr, Bandar-e Emam Khomeyni, Bandar-e Lengeh, Bandar-e Mahshahr, Bandar-e Torkaman, Chabahar (Bandar Beheshti), Jazireh-ye Khark, Jazireh-ye Lavan, Jazireh-ye Sirri, Khorramshahr (limited operation since November 1992), Now Shahr
Merchant marine:
total: 139 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 4,190,576 GRT/7,276,700 DWT
ships by type: bulk 43, cargo 34, chemical tanker 4, container 10, liquefied gas 1, multi-functional large-load carrier 6, petroleum tanker 30, refrigerated cargo 1, roll on/roll off 9, short-sea passenger 1 (2002 est.)
309 (2002)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 122
over 3,047 m: 39
2,438 to 3,047 m: 25
914 to 1,523 m: 27
under 914 m: 4 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 27
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 187
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 9
under 914 m: 39 (2002)
914 to 1,523 m: 138
13 (2002)
Military Iran
Military branches:
Islamic Republic of Iran regular forces (includes Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force and Air Defense Command), Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) (includes Ground Forces, Air Force, Navy, Qods [special operations], and Basij [Popular Mobilization Army] forces), Law Enforcement Forces
Military manpower - military age:
21 years of age (2003 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 20,343,063 (2003 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 12,094,551 (2003 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 870,711 (2003 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$9.7 billion (FY00)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
3.1% (FY00)
Transnational Issues Iran
Disputes - international:
Iran protests Afghanistan's limiting flow of dammed waters on Helmand River tributaries in response to prolonged drought in region; thousands of Afghan refugees still reside in Iran; despite restored diplomatic relations in 1990, disputes with Iraq over maritime and land boundaries, navigation channel, and other issues from eight-year war persist; UAE engage direct talks and Arab League support to resolve disputes over Iran's occupation of Tunb Islands and Abu Musa Island; Iran insists on division of Caspian Sea into five equal sectors, while other littoral states have generally agreed to equidistant seabed boundaries - Iran has threatened Azerbaijanian hydrocarbon exploration in disputed waters
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 Iranian press reports estimate at least 2 million drug users in country