Iran

 

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 Hojjatol-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.

 

Geography:
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
People:
Population: 78,868,711 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 24.1% (male 9,608,342/female 9,128,427)

15-64 years: 70.9% (male 28,083,193/female 27,170,445)

65 years and over: 5% (male 1,844,967/female 2,055,846) (2011 est.)

Government:
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
Capital: name: Tehran

geographic coordinates: 35 40 N, 51 25 E

time difference: UTC+3.5 (8.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Communications:
Telephones – main lines in use:  26.849 million (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 67.5 million (2009)
Transportation:
Airports: 324 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 136

over 3,047 m: 42

2,438 to 3,047 m: 29

1,524 to 2,437 m: 24

914 to 1,523 m: 34

under 914 m: 7 (2012)

Military:
Military branches: Islamic Republic of Iran Regular Forces (Artesh): Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force of the Military of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Niru-ye Hava’i-ye Artesh-e Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran; includes air defence); 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 (2011)
Military service age and obligation: 19 years of age for compulsory military service; 16 years of age for volunteers; 17 years of age for Law Enforcement Forces; 15 years of age for Basij Forces (Popular Mobilization Army); conscript military service obligation – 18 months; women exempt from military service (2008)

Economy:

Iran’s economy is marked by an inefficient state sector, reliance on the oil sector (which provides 85% of government revenues), 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 failed to make any notable progress in fulfilling the goals of the nation’s latest five-year plan. A combination of price controls and subsidies, particularly on food and energy, continue to weigh down the economy, and administrative controls, widespread corruption, and other rigidities undermine the potential for private-sector-led growth.

 

As a result of these inefficiencies, significant informal market activity flourishes and shortages are common. High oil prices in recent years have enabled Iran to amass nearly $70 billion in foreign exchange reserves. Yet this increased revenue has not eased economic hardships, which include double-digit unemployment and inflation. The economy has seen only moderate growth. Iran’s educated population, economic inefficiency and insufficient investment – both foreign and domestic – have prompted an increasing number of Iranians to seek employment overseas, resulting in significant “brain drain.”

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): 1,027,577 (Afghanistan); 3,511 (Iraq) (2012)