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.
» Geography
» People
» Government
» Economy
» Communications
» Transportation
» Military
» Transnational Issues


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

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 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
75,620 sq km (1998 est.)

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

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

Back to Top


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.)

HIV/AIDS – 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.)

Back to Top


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

Executive Branch
chief of state: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-KHAMENEI (since 4 June 1989); head of government: President Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD (since 3 August 2005); First Vice President Parviz DAVUDI (since 11 September 2005); cabinet: Council of Ministers selected by the president with legislative approval; the Supreme Leader has some control over appointments to the more sensitive ministries; elections: leader of the Islamic Revolution appointed for life by the Assembly of Experts; president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 17 June 2005 with a two-candidate runoff on 24 June 2005 (next to be held NA 2009); election results: Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD elected president; percent of vote – Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD 62%, Ali Akbar Hashemi RAFSANJANI 36%; note – 2% of ballots spoiled

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

Political Parties and Leaders
formal political parties are a relatively new phenomenon in Iran and most conservatives still prefer to work through political pressure groups rather than parties; a loose pro-reform coalition called the 2nd Khordad Front, which includes political parties as well as less formal pressure groups and organizations, achieved considerable success at elections to the sixth Majles in early 2000; groups in the coalition include: Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), Executives of Construction Party (Kargozaran), Solidarity Party, Islamic Labor Party; Mardom Salari, Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization (MIRO), and Militant Clerics Society (Ruhaniyun); the coalition participated in the seventh Majles elections in early 2004; a new apparently conservative group, the Builders of Islamic Iran, took a leading position in the new Majles after winning a majority of the seats in February 2004

Political Pressure Groups and Leaders
political pressure groups conduct most of Iran’s political activities; groups that generally support the Islamic Republic include Ansar-e Hizballah, Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam, Tehran Militant Clergy Association (Ruhaniyat), Islamic Coalition Party (Motalefeh), and Islamic Engineers Society; active pro-reform student groups include the Organization for Strengthening Unity; opposition groups include Freedom Movement of Iran, the National Front, Marz-e Por Gohar, and various ethnic and Monarchist organizations; armed political groups that have been almost completely repressed by the government include Mujahidin-e Khalq Organization (MEK), People’s Fedayeen, Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, and Komala

International Organization Participation

Diplomatic Representation in the US
none; note – Iran has an Interests Section in the Pakistani Embassy; address: Iranian Interests Section, Pakistani Embassy, 2209 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007; telephone: [1] (202) 965-4990; FAX [1] (202) 965-1073

Diplomatic Representation from the US
none; note – protecting power in Iran is Switzerland

Flag Description
three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red; the national emblem (a stylized representation of the word Allah in the shape of a tulip, a symbol of martyrdom) in red is centered in the white band; ALLAH AKBAR (God is Great) in white Arabic script is repeated 11 times along the bottom edge of the green band and 11 times along the top edge of the red band

Back to Top


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.)

Household Income or Consumption by Percentage Share
lowest 10%: NA%; highest 10%: NA%

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 – Imports
NA bbl/day

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% (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)

Exchange Rates
rials per US dollar – 8,964 (2005), 8,614 (2004), 8,193.9 (2003), 6,907 (2002), 1,753.6 (2001); note: Iran has been using a managed floating exchange rate regime since unifying multiple exchange rates in March 2002

Fiscal Year
21 March – 20 March

Back to Top


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)

Back to Top


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

Back to Top


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)

Military Service Age and Obligation
18 years of age for compulsory military service; 16 years of age for volunteers; soldiers as young as 9 were recruited extensively during the Iran-Iraq War; conscript service obligation – 18 months (2004)

Manpower Available for Military Service
males age 18-49: 18,319,545 (2005 est.)

Manpower Fit for Military Service
males age 18-49: 15,665,725 (2005 est.)

Manpower Reaching Military Service Age Annually
males: 862,056 (2005 est.)

Military Expenditures – Dollar Figure
$4.3 billion (2003 est.)

Military Expenditures – Percent of GDP
3.3% (2003 est.)

Back to Top

Transnational Issues

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

Back to Top