Iran

IRAN

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Iran Wikipedia



"Persia" redirects here. For other uses, see Persia (disambiguation).
This article is about the modern nation. For other uses, see Iran (disambiguation).
Islamic Republic of Iran
  • جمهوری اسلامی ایران
  • Jomhuri-ye Eslāmi-ye Irān
FlagEmblem
Motto: 
  • تَكْبِير
"Takbir" (official)
  • استقلال. آزادی. جمهوری اسلامی
"Independence, freedom, the Islamic Republic." (de facto)
Anthem: 
  • جمهوری اسلامی ایران
  • National Anthem of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Capital


and largest city
Tehran


35°41′N 51°25′E / 35.683°N 51.417°E / 35.683; 51.417
Official languagesPersian
Spoken languages
  • Persian
  • Azeri
  • Kurdish
  • Lurish
  • Gilaki
  • Mazandarani
  • Turkmen
  • Arabic
  • Baloch
  • Georgian
  • Armenian
  • Neo-Aramaic
ReligionShia Islam (official)
DemonymIranian, Persian
GovernmentUnitary Theocratic Islamic republic
 - Supreme LeaderAli Khamenei
 - PresidentHassan Rouhani
 - Vice PresidentEshaq Jahangiri
LegislatureIslamic Consultative Assembly
Unification
 - Median Empirec. 678 BC 
 - Achaemenid Empire550 BC 
 - Sassanid Empire224 AD 
 - Safavid Empire1501 
 - Islamic Republic1 April 1979 
 - Current constitution24 October 1979 
 - Constitution amendment28 July 1989 
Area
 - Total1,648,195 km2 (18th)


636,372 sq mi
 - Water (%)0.7
Population
 - 2013 estimate77,176,930 (17th)
 - Density48/km2 (162rd)


124/sq mi
GDP (PPP)2014 estimate
 - Total$974.406 billion (17th)
 - Per capita$12,478
GDP (nominal)2014 estimate
 - Total$405.540 billion
 - Per capita$5,193
Gini (2010)38


medium
HDI (2013)Increase 0.742


high · 76th
CurrencyRial (﷼) (IRR)
Time zoneIRST (UTC+3:30)
 - Summer (DST)IRDT (UTC+4:30)
Date formatyyyy/mm/dd (SH)
Drives on theright
Calling code+98
ISO 3166 codeIR
Internet TLD
  • .ir
  • ایران.
You may need rendering support to display the Persian text in this article correctly.
Iran (Listeni/ɪˈrɑːn/ or /aɪˈræn/; Persian: ایران‎ [ʔiːˈɾɒn] ( listen)), also known as Persia (/ˈpɜrʒə/ or /ˈpɜrʃə/), officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered on the north by Turkmenistan, with Kazakhstan and Russia across the Caspian Sea; on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; on the west by Iraq; and on the northwest by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second-largest nation in the Middle East and the 18th-largest in the world; with over 77 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 17th most populous nation. It is the only country that has both a Caspian Sea and Indian Ocean coastline. Iran has been of geostrategic importance because of its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia and the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran is home to one of the world's oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Proto-Elamite and Elamite kingdom in 3200–2800 BC. The Iranian Medes unified the country into the first of many empires in 625 BC, after which it became the dominant cultural and political power in the region. Iran reached the pinnacle of its power during the Achaemenid Empire (First Persian Empire) founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC, which at its greatest extent comprised major portions of the ancient world, stretching from parts of the Balkans (Bulgaria-Pannonia) and Thrace-Macedonia in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east, making it the largest empire the world had yet seen. The empire collapsed in 330 BC following the conquests of Alexander the Great. The area eventually regained influence under the Parthian Empire and rose to prominence once more after the establishment of the Sasanian dynasty (Neo-Persian empire) in 224 AD, under which Iran again became one of the leading powers in the world along with the Byzantine Empire for the next four centuries.

Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism were largely replaced after Rashidun Muslims invaded Persia in 633 AD, and conquered it by 651 AD. Iran thereafter played a vital role in the subsequent Islamic Golden Age, producing numerous influential scientists, scholars, artists, and thinkers. The emergence in 1501 of the Safavid dynasty, which promoted the Twelver school of thought as the official religion, marked one of the most important turning points in Iranian and Muslim history. It also culminated into tensions, which in 1514 led to the Battle of Chaldiran. Starting in 1736 under Nader Shah, Iran would for the last time rise to high prominence, reaching its greatest territorial extent since the Sassanid Empire, and briefly possessing over what was probably the most powerful empire in the world. The Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1906 established the nation's first parliament, which operated within a constitutional monarchy. Following a coup d'état instigated by the UK and the US in 1953, Iran gradually became autocratic. Growing dissent against foreign influence and political repression culminated in the Iranian Revolution, which led to the establishment of an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979.

Tehran is the capital and largest city, serving as the cultural, commercial, and industrial center of the nation. Iran is a major regional and middle power, exerting considerable influence in international energy security and the world economy through its large reserves of fossil fuels, which include the largest natural gas supply in the world and the fourth-largest proven petroleum reserves. It hosts Asia's fourth-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Globally, it ranks 8th in the world for the amount of books published per year, and was ranked first in scientific progress in the world in 2011.

Iran is a founding member of the UN, NAM, OIC and OPEC. Its unique political system, based on the 1979 constitution, combines elements of a parliamentary democracy with a religious theocracy run by the country's clergy, wherein the Supreme Leader wields significant influence. A multicultural nation comprising numerous ethnic and linguistic groups, most inhabitants are Shi'ites, the Iranian rial is its currency, and Persian is the official language.

Contents

              Etymology

              Main article: Name of Iran
              The name of Iran (ایران) is the Modern Persian derivative from the Proto-Iranian term Aryānā, meaning "Land of the Aryans", first attested in Zoroastrianism's Avesta tradition. The term Ērān is found to refer to Iran in a 3rd-century Sassanid inscription, and the Parthian inscription that accompanies it uses the Parthian term "aryān" in reference to Iranians.

              Historically Iran has been referred to as "Persia" or similar (La Perse, Persien, Perzië, etc.) by the Western world, mainly due to the writings of Greek historians who called Iran Persis (Περσίς), meaning land of the Persians. As the most extensive and close interaction the Ancient Greeks ever had with any outsider was that with the Persians, the termination became coined forever, even long after the Persian rule in Ancient Greece and beyond had ended and other dynasties were now ruling the regions. In 1935 Rezā Shāh requested that the international community refer to the country as Iran. Opposition to the name change led to the reversal of the decision, and in 1959 both names were to be used interchangeably. Today both "Persia" and "Iran" are used interchangeably in cultural contexts; however, "Iran" is the name used officially in political contexts.

              The historical and cultural wider usage of "Iran" is not restricted to the modern state proper. Irānshahr or Irānzamīn (Greater Iran) corresponded to territories of Iranian cultural or linguistic zones. Besides modern Iran, it included portions of the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, Eastern Arabia, the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia.

              History

              Main article: History of Iran

              Early history in Iran

              Further information: Archaeological sites in Iran, Proto-Elamite, Jiroft culture, Tepe Sialk and Shahr-e Sukhteh
              The earliest archaeological artifacts in Iran, like those excavated at the Kashafrud and Ganj Par sites, attest to a human presence in Iran since the Lower Paleolithic era. Neanderthal artifacts dating back to the Middle Paleolithic period have been found mainly in the Zagros region at sites such as Warwasi and Yafteh Cave.[page needed] Early agricultural communities began to flourish in Iran at around 8000 BC, with settlements such as Chogha Bonut, Susa and Chogha Mish developing in the Zagros region.[page needed]

              The emergence of Susa as a city is determined by C14 dating as early as 4395 BC. There are dozens of pre-historic sites across the Iranian plateau pointing to the existence of ancient cultures and urban settlements in the fourth millennium BCE. During the Bronze age Iran was home to several civilisations such as Elam, Jiroft and Zayandeh Rud civilisations. Elam, the most prominent of these civilisations developed in the southwest of Iran alongside those in Mesopotamia. The development of writing in Elam in fourth millennium BCE paralleled that in Sumer. The Elamite kingdom continued its existence until the emergence of the Median and Achaemenid Empires.

              Classical Era




              Ruins of the Achaemenid palace of Persepolis, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site



              Modern impression of Achaemenid cylinder seal, 5th century BC. A winged solar disc legitimises the Persian king who subdues two rampant Mesopotamian lamassu figures.
              Main articles: Median Empire, Achaemenid Empire, Seleucid Empire, Parthian Empire and Sassanid Empire
              During the second millennium BCE, Proto-Iranian tribes arrived in Iran from the Eurasian steppes, rivaling the native settlers of the country. As these tribes dispersed into the wider area of Greater Iran and beyond, the boundaries of modern Iran were dominated by the Persian, Parthian, and Median tribes. From the late 10th to late 7th centuries BC, these Iranian peoples, together with the pre Iranian kingdoms, fell under the domination of the Assyrian Empire, based in northern Mesopotamia. Under king Cyaxares, the Medes and Persians entered into an alliance with Nabopolassar of Babylon, as well as the Scythians, Cimmerians, and Arameans, and together they attacked the Assyrian Empire. The civil war ravaged Assyrian Empire between 616 BC and 605 BC, thus freeing their respective peoples from three centuries of Assyrian rule. The unification of the Median tribes under a single ruler in 728 BC led to the creation of a Median empire which, by 612 BC, controlled the whole of Iran as well as eastern Anatolia.

              In 550 BC, Cyrus the Great from the state of Anshan took over the Median empire, and founded the Achaemenid empire by unifying other city states. The conquest of Media was a result of what is called the Persian revolt; the brouhaha was initially triggered by the actions of the Median ruler Astyages and quickly spread to other provinces as they allied with the Persians. Later conquests under Cyrus and his successors expanded the empire to include Lydia, Babylon, Egypt, and the lands to the west of the Indus and Oxus rivers. At its greatest extent, the empire included the modern territories of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, all significant population centers of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya, Turkey, Thrace and Macedonia, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, much of Central Asia, Afghanistan, northern Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and parts of Oman and the UAE, making it the first world empire. Conflict on the western borders began with the famous Greco-Persian Wars which continued through the first half of the 5th century BC and ended with the Persian withdrawal from all of their European territories. The empire had a centralised, bureaucratic administration under the Emperor and a large professional army and civil services, inspiring similar developments in later empires.



              Achaemenid Empire around the time of Darius the Great and Xerxes.
              In 334 BC, Alexander the Great invaded the Achaemenid Empire, defeating the last Achaemenid Emperor Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC. Following the premature death of Alexander, Iran came under the control of Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. In the middle of the 2nd century BC, the Parthian Empire rose to become the main power in Iran and continued as a feudal monarchy for nearly five centuries until 224 AD, when it was succeeded by the Sassanid Empire. The Sassanids established an empire roughly within the frontiers achieved by the Achaemenids, with the capital at Ctesiphon, and were alongside the Byzantines the two most dominant powers in the world for nearly four centuries. Most of the period of the Parthian and Sassanid Empires were overshadowed by the Roman-Persian Wars, which raged on their western borders for over 700 years. These wars exhausted both Romans and Sassanids, which arguably led to the defeat of both at the hands of the invading Muslim Arabs.

              Middle Ages (652–1501)

              Main articles: Islamic conquest of Iran and Medieval Iran
              The prolonged Roman-Persian wars, as well as social conflict within the Empire opened the way for an Islamic invasion of Iran in the 7th century. Gundeshapur was the most important medical centre of the ancient world at the time of the Islamic conquest. Initially defeated by the Rashidun Caliphate, Iran later came under the rule of their successors the Ummayad and Abbasid Caliphates. The process of conversion of Iranians to Islam which followed was prolonged and gradual. Under the new Arab elite of the Rashidun and later Ummayad Caliphates Iranians, both Muslim (mawali) and non-Muslim (Dhimmi), were discriminated against, being excluded from government and military, and having to pay a special tax. In 750 the Abbasids succeeded in overthrowing the Ummayad Caliphate, mainly due to the support from dissatisfied Iranian mawali. The mawali formed the majority of the rebel army, which was led by the Iranian general Abu Muslim. After two centuries of Arab rule semi-independent and independent Iranian kingdoms (such as the Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids and Buyids) began to appear on the fringes of the declining Abbasid Caliphate. By the Samanid era in the 9th and 10th centuries Iran's efforts to regain its independence had been well solidified.



              Persian miniature depicting Timur's campaign in India
              The arrival of the Abbasid Caliphs saw a revival of Persian culture and influence, and a move away from Arabic culture. The role of the old Arab aristocracy was slowly replaced by a Persian bureaucracy.

              The blossoming Persian literature, philosophy, medicine, and art became major elements in the forming of a Muslim civilization during the Islamic Golden Age. The Islamic Golden Age reached its peak in the 10th and 11th centuries, during which Persia was the main theatre of scientific activity. After the 10th century, Persian, alongside Arabic, was used for scientific, philosophical, historical, mathematical, musical, and medical works, as important Iranian writers such as Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, Avicenna, Qotb al-Din Shirazi, Naser Khusraw and Biruni made contributions to Persian scientific writing.

              The cultural revival that began in the Abbasid period led to a resurfacing of Iranian national identity, and so earlier attempts of Arabization never succeeded in Iran. The Iranian Shuubiyah movement became a catalyst for Iranians to regain their independence in their relations with the Arab invaders. The most notable effect of the movement was the continuation of the Persian language attested to the epic poet Ferdowsi, now regarded as the most important figure in Persian literature.

              The 10th century saw a mass migration of Turkic tribes from Central Asia into the Iranian plateau. Turkic tribesmen were first used in the Abbasid army as slave-warriors (Mamluks), replacing Persian and Arab elements within the army. As a result the Mamluks gained significant political power. In 999, large parts of Iran came briefly under the rule of the Ghaznavid dynasty, whose rulers were of Mamluk Turk origin, and longer subsequently under the Turkish Seljuk and Khwarezmian Empires. These Turks had been fully Persianised and had adopted Persian models of administration and rulership.

              The result of the adoption and patronage of Persian culture by Turkish rulers was the development of a distinct Turko-Persian tradition.

              In 1219–21 the Khwarezmian Empire suffered a devastating invasion by Genghis Khan's Mongol army. According to Steven R. Ward, "Mongol violence and depredations killed up to three-fourths of the population of the Iranian Plateau, possibly 10 to 15 million people. Some historians have estimated that Iran's population did not again reach its pre-Mongol levels until the mid-20th century." Following the fracture of the Mongol Empire in 1256 Hulagu Khan, Genghis Khan's grandson, established the Ilkhanate dynasty in Iran. In 1370 yet another conqueror, Timur, commonly known as Tamerlane in the West, followed Hulagu's example, establishing the Timurid Dynasty which lasted for another 156 years. In 1387, Timur ordered the complete massacre of Isfahan, reportedly killing 70,000 citizens. Hulagu, Timur and their successors soon came to adopt the ways and customs of the Persians, choosing to surround themselves with a culture that was distinctively Persian.

              Dynasties (1501–1979)




              Shah Ismail I, the founder of the Safavid Dynasty (1501–1736)
              Main articles: Safavid Dynasty, Afsharid Dynasty, Zand Dynasty, Qajar Dynasty and Pahlavi Dynasty
              At the start of the 1500s, Shah Ismail I established the Safavid Dynasty in western Persia and Azerbaijan. He subsequently extended his authority over all of Persia, and established intermittent Persian hegemony over vast nearby regions which would last for many centuries onwards. Ismail instigated a forced conversion from Sunni to Shi'a Islam. The rivalry between Safavid Persia and the Ottoman Empire led to numerous Ottoman–Persian Wars. The Safavid era peaked in the reign of the brilliant soldier, statesman and administrator Shah Abbas I (1587–1629), surpassing their Ottoman arch rivals in strength, and making the empire a leading hub in Western Eurasia for the sciences and arts. The Safavid era also saw the start of the creation of new layers in Persian society, composed of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians, Circassians, Armenians, and other peoples of the Caucasus. Following a slow decline in the late 1600s and early 1700s by internal strife, royal intrigues, continuous wars between them and their Ottoman arch rivals, and foreign interference (most notably by the Russians) the Safavid dynasty was ended by Pashtun rebels who besieged Isfahan and defeated Soltan Hosein in 1722.



              Nadir Shah was the founder of the Afsharid dynasty.
              In 1729, an Iranian Khorasan chieftain and military genius, Nader Shah, successfully drove out, then conquered the Pashtun invaders.

              During Nader Shah's reign, Iran reached its greatest extent since the Sassanian Empire, reestablishing Persian hegemony over all of the Caucasus, other major parts of West Asia, Central Asia and parts of South Asia, and briefly possessing over what was probably the most powerful empire in the world.

              In 1738-39, he invaded India and sacked Delhi, bringing great loot back to Persia. Nader Shah's assassination sparked a brief period of civil war and turmoil, after which Karim Khan came to power in 1750, bringing a period of relative peace and prosperity.

              Another civil war ensued after Karim Khan's death in 1779, out of which Aga Muhammad Khan emerged victorious, founding the Qajar Dynasty in 1794. In 1795, following the disobedience of their Georgian subjects and their alliance with the Russians, the Qajars sacked and ravaged Tblisi, and drove the Russians out of the entire Caucasus, reestablishing Persian suzerainty over the region.

              It indirectly sparked another series of Russo-Persian Wars led by subsequent Shahs and Tsars, after the last of which Russia would eventually prevail. Apart from Agha Mohammad Khan, Qajar rule is characterised as a century of misrule.

              Around 1.5 million people, or 20–25% of Persia's population, died as a result of the Great Persian Famine of 1870–1871.

              Whilst resisting efforts to be colonised, Iran suffered in the 1800s as a result of Russian and British empire-building, known as 'The Great Game', losing much of its territory in the Russo-Persian and the Anglo-Persian Wars. A series of protests took place in response to the sale of concessions to foreigners by Nasser al-Din Shah and Mozaffar ad-Din Shah between 1872 and 1905, the last of which resulted in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution and establishment of Iran's first national parliament in 1906, which was abolished in 1908. The struggle continued until 1911, when Mohammad Ali was defeated and forced to abdicate. On the pretext of restoring order, the Russians occupied northern Iran in 1911. During World War I, the British occupied much of western Iran, not fully withdrawing until 1921.



              Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and US President Jimmy Carter



              Mohammad Mosaddegh, democracy advocate and deposed Prime Minister of Iran
              In 1921, Reza Khan, Prime Minister of Iran and former general of the Persian Cossack Brigade, overthrew the Qajar Dynasty and became Shah. In 1941 he was forced to abdicate in favour of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, after Iran came under British and Russian occupation following the Anglo-Soviet invasion that established the Persian Corridor and would last until 1946.

              In 1951 Mohammad Mosaddegh was elected prime minister. He became enormously popular in Iran after he nationalized Iran's petroleum industry and oil reserves. He was deposed in the 1953 Iranian coup d'état, an Anglo-American covert operation that marked the first time the US had overthrown a foreign government during the Cold War.

              After the coup, the Shah became increasingly autocratic. Arbitrary arrests and torture by his secret police, SAVAK, were used to crush all forms of political opposition. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became an active critic of the Shah's White Revolution and publicly denounced the government. Khomeini was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. After his release in 1964, Khomeini publicly criticized the United States government. The Shah sent him into exile. He went first to Turkey, then to Iraq and finally to France. By the mid-1970s, there was growing unrest with the Shah's repressive regime.

              After the Iranian Revolution (1979–)

              Unbalanced scales.svg
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              See also: Iranian Revolution and History of the Islamic Republic of Iran



              Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran after 14 years exile on 1 February 1979.
              The Iranian Revolution, later known as the Islamic Revolution, began in January 1978 with the first major demonstrations against the Shah.

              After strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the country and its economy, the Shah fled the country in January 1979 and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from exile to Tehran, and promises were told to people in order to build a new regime.

              Nationwide uprisings against the new regime erupted in Kordestan, Khuzestan, Balochistan and other areas, though they were eventually subdued.



              Iranian women protesting against the new rules, on the International Women's Day.
              On March 8, 1979, coinciding with International Women's Day, Iranian women went to the streets and demonstrated against the reductions to woman's status and rights, especially with regard to family law and mandatory veiling.

              In April 1979 Iran officially became an Islamic Republic, after its establishment was supported in a referendum. A second referendum in December 1979 approved a theocratic constitution. Although both nationalists and Marxists joined with Islamic traditionalists to overthrow the Shah, tens of thousands were executed by the Islamic regime afterward.

              On 4 November 1979, a group of Iranian students seized US embassy personnel after the US refused to return Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to Iran to face trial. He was in hospital in Texas at the time. Attempts by the Jimmy Carter administration to negotiate for their release or rescue them were unsuccessful. In January 1981 the hostages were finally set free according to the Algiers Accords.



              Iranian soldiers in Khorramshahr during the Iran-Iraq War.
              Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein decided to take advantage of the disorder in the wake of the Revolution by acquiring territories that Iraq had claimed earlier from Iran during the Shah's rule.

              On 22 September 1980 the Iraqi army invaded Iran at Khuzestan, precipitating the Iran–Iraq War. Although Saddam Hussein's forces made several early advances, by 1982 the Iranian forces successfully managed to drive the Iraqi army back into Iraq. Despite receiving large amounts of foreign financial and military aid (including chemical weapons), all of Saddam's subsequent offensives were thrown back.

              The war continued until 1988, when Khomeini accepted a truce mediated by the UN. The total Iranian casualties in the war were estimated to be 123,220–160,000 KIA, 60,711 MIA and 11,000-16,000 civilians.

              Following the Iran–Iraq War, President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his administration concentrated on a pragmatic pro-business policy of rebuilding and strengthening the economy without making any dramatic break with the ideology of the revolution. Rafsanjani served until 1997. Rafsanjani was succeeded by the moderate reformist Mohammad Khatami. However, Khatami is widely regarded as having been unsuccessful in achieving his goal of making Iran more free and democratic.

              In the 2005 presidential elections the conservative populist candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected. In the 2009 Iranian presidential election the Interior Ministry announced incumbent president Ahmadinejad had won 62.63% of the vote, while Mir-Hossein Mousavi had come in second place with 33.75%. Allegations of large irregularities provoked the 2009–2010 Iranian election protests both within Iran and in major capitals in the West.

              Hassan Rouhani was elected as President of Iran on 15 June 2013, defeating Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and four other candidates.

              The electoral victory of new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has improved Iran's relations with other countries.

              Geography

              Main article: Geography of Iran
              See also: Agriculture in Iran and Wildlife of Iran



              Topography of Iran
              Iran is the eighteenth largest country in the world, with an area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi). Its area roughly equals that of the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Germany combined, or somewhat more than the US state of Alaska. Iran lies between latitudes 24° and 40° N, and longitudes 44° and 64° E. Its borders are with Azerbaijan (611 km (380 mi)) (with Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave (179 km (111 mi) )) and Armenia (35 km (22 mi)) to the north-west; the Caspian Sea to the north; Turkmenistan (992 km (616 mi)) to the north-east; Pakistan (909 km (565 mi)) and Afghanistan (936 km (582 mi)) to the east; Turkey (499 km (310 mi)) and Iraq (1,458 km (906 mi)) to the west; and finally the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south.



              Mount Damavand, Iran's highest point, is located in Amol County, Mazanderan.
              Iran consists of the Iranian Plateau with the exception of the coasts of the Caspian Sea and Khuzestan Province. It is one of the world's most mountainous countries, its landscape dominated by rugged mountain ranges that separate various basins or plateaux from one another. The populous western part is the most mountainous, with ranges such as the Caucasus, Zagros and Alborz Mountains; the last contains Iran's highest point, Mount Damavand at 5,610 m (18,406 ft), which is also the highest mountain on the Eurasian landmass west of the Hindu Kush.

              The northern part of Iran is covered by dense rain forests called Shomal or the Jungles of Iran. The eastern part consists mostly of desert basins such as the Dasht-e Kavir, Iran's largest desert, in the north-central portion of the country, and the Dasht-e Lut, in the east, as well as some salt lakes. This is because the mountain ranges are too high for rain clouds to reach these regions.

              The only large plains are found along the coast of the Caspian Sea and at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, where Iran borders the mouth of the Arvand river. Smaller, discontinuous plains are found along the remaining coast of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.

              Climate

              See also: Environment of Iran



              Climate map of Iran (Köppen-Geiger)
                BWh
                BWk
                BSh
                BSk
                Csa
                Dsa
              Iran's climate ranges from arid or semiarid, to subtropical along the Caspian coast and the northern forests. On the northern edge of the country (the Caspian coastal plain) temperatures rarely fall below freezing and the area remains humid for the rest of the year. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 29 °C (84.2 °F). Annual precipitation is 680 mm (26.8 in) in the eastern part of the plain and more than 1,700 mm (66.9 in) in the western part.

              To the west, settlements in the Zagros basin experience lower temperatures, severe winters with below zero average daily temperatures and heavy snowfall. The eastern and central basins are arid, with less than 200 mm (7.9 in) of rain, and have occasional deserts. Average summer temperatures exceed 38 °C (100.4 °F). The coastal plains of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in southern Iran have mild winters, and very humid and hot summers. The annual precipitation ranges from 135 to 355 mm (5.3 to 14.0 in).

              Fauna

              See also: Wildlife in Iran



              Persian Leopard
              Iran's wildlife is composed of several animal species including bears, gazelles, wild pigs, wolves, jackals, panthers, Eurasian Lynx, and foxes.

              Domestic animals include, sheep, goats, cattle, horses, water buffalo, donkeys, and camels. The pheasant, partridge, stork, eagles and falcon are also native to Iran.

              One of the most famous members of Iranian wildlife is the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah, also known as the Iranian Cheetah, whose numbers were greatly reduced after the Iranian Revolution.

              Today there are ongoing efforts to increase its population and introduce it back in India. Iran had lost all its Asiatic Lion and the now extinct Caspian Tigers by the earlier part of the 20th century.

              Regions, provinces and cities

              Main articles: Regions of Iran, Provinces of Iran and Counties of Iran
              See also: List of Iranian cities by population
              Alborz
              Ardabil
              Bushehr


              Chaharmahal


              and Bakhtiari
              Isfahan
              Fars
              Gilan
              Golestan
              Hamadan
              Hormozgan
              Ilam
              Kerman
              Kermanshah
              Khuzestan


              Kohgiluyeh and


              Boyer-Ahmad
              Kurdistan
              Luristan
              Markazi
              Mazandaran
              Qazvin
              Qom


              Razavi


              Khorasan
              Semnan


              Sistan and


              Baluchestan
              Tehran
              Yazd
              Zanjan


              North


              Khorasan


              South


              Khorasan


              West


              Azerbaijan


              East


              Azerbaijan
              Caspian Sea
              Persian Gulf
              Turkmenistan
              Afghanistan
              Pakistan
              Azerbaijan
              Armenia
              T


              u


              r


              k


              e


              y
              Iraq
              Kuwait
              Saudi Arabia
              Iran is divided into five regions with thirty one provinces (ostān), each governed by an appointed governor (استاندار, ostāndār). The provinces are divided into counties (shahrestān), and subdivided into districts (bakhsh) and sub-districts (dehestān).

              Iran has one of the highest urban growth rates in the world. From 1950 to 2002, the urban proportion of the population increased from 27% to 60%. The United Nations predicts that by 2030, 80% of the population will be urban.[not in citation given] Most internal migrants have settled near the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Ahvaz, and Qom. The listed populations are from the 2006/07 (1385 AP) census.[not in citation given] Tehran, with a population of 7,705,036, is the largest city in Iran and is the capital. Tehran, like many big cities, suffers from severe air pollution. It is the hub of the country's communication and transport network.

              Mashhad, with a population of 2,410,800, is the second largest Iranian city and the centre of the Razavi Khorasan Province. Mashhad is one of the holiest Shia cities in the world as it is the site of the Imam Reza shrine. It is the centre of tourism in Iran, and between 15 and 20 million pilgrims go to the Imam Reza's shrine every year.

              Another major Iranian city is Isfahan (population 1,583,609), which is the capital of Isfahan Province. The Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city contains a wide variety of Islamic architectural sites ranging from the 11th to the 19th century. The growth of the suburban area around the city has turned Isfahan into Iran's second most populous metropolitan area (3,430,353).

              The fourth major city of Iran is Tabriz (population 1,378,935), the capital of the East Azerbaijan Province. It is also the second industrial city of Iran after Tehran. Tabriz had been the second largest city in Iran until the late 1960s and one of its former capitals and residence of the crown prince under the Qajar dynasty. The city has proven extremely influential in the country’s recent history.

              The fifth major city is Karaj (population 1,377,450), located in Alborz Province and situated 20 km west of Tehran, at the foot of the Alborz mountains; however, the city is increasingly becoming an extension of metropolitan Tehran.

              The sixth major Iranian city is Shiraz (population 1,214,808); it is the capital of Fars Province. The Elamite civilization to the west greatly influenced the area, which soon came to be known as Persis. The ancient Persians were present in the region from about the 9th century BC, and became rulers of a large empire under the Achaemenid dynasty in the 6th century BC. The ruins of Persepolis and Pasargadae, two of the four capitals of the Achaemenid Empire, are located in or near Shiraz. Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire and is situated 70 kilometres (43 mi) northeast of modern Shiraz. UNESCO declared the citadel of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.

              Largest cities or towns of Iran


              Statistical Center of Iran: Results of national census, 2012
              RankNameProvincePop.RankNameProvincePop.
              Tehran


              Tehran
              Mashhad


              Mashhad
              1TehranTehran8,154,05111RashtGilan639,951Isfahan


              Isfahan
              Karaj


              Karaj
              2MashhadRazavi Khorasan2,749,37412ZahedanSistan and Baluchestan560,725
              3IsfahanIsfahan1,756,12613KermanKerman534,441
              4KarajAlborz1,614,62614ArakMarkazi526,182
              5TabrizEast Azarbaijan1,494,98815HamadanHamadan525,794
              6ShirazFars1,460,66516YazdYazd486,152
              7AhwazKhuzestan1,112,02117ArdabilArdabil482,632
              8QomQom1,074,03618Bandar AbbasHormozgan435,751
              9KermanshahKermanshah851,40519EslamshahrTehran389,102
              10UrmiaWest Azarbaijan667,49920ZanjanZanjan386,851

              Government and politics

              Main article: Politics of Iran



              Ali Khamenei, Supreme leader of Iran, talking with former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva



              Iran's syncretic political system combines elements of a modern Islamic theocracy with democracy.
              The political system of the Islamic Republic is based on the 1979 Constitution, and comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The Leader of the Revolution ("Supreme Leader") is responsible for delineation and supervision of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Supreme Leader is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, controls the military intelligence and security operations; and has sole power to declare war or peace. The heads of the judiciary, state radio and television networks, the commanders of the police and military forces and six of the twelve members of the Guardian Council are appointed by the Supreme Leader. The Assembly of Experts elects and dismisses the Supreme Leader on the basis of qualifications and popular esteem.

              After the Supreme Leader, the Constitution defines the President of Iran as the highest state authority. The President is elected by universal suffrage for a term of four years and can only be re-elected for one term.[dubious – discuss] Presidential candidates must be approved by the Guardian Council prior to running in order to ensure their allegiance to the ideals of the Islamic revolution.

              The President is responsible for the implementation of the Constitution and for the exercise of executive powers, except for matters directly related to the Supreme Leader, who has the final say in all matters. The President appoints and supervises the Council of Ministers, coordinates government decisions, and selects government policies to be placed before the legislature. Eight Vice-Presidents serve under the President, as well as a cabinet of twenty two ministers, who must all be approved by the legislature.

              The legislature of Iran (known in English as the Islamic Consultative Assembly) is a unicameral body. The Majlis of Iran comprises 290 members elected for four-year terms. The Majlis drafts legislation, ratifies international treaties, and approves the national budget. All Majlis candidates and all legislation from the assembly must be approved by the Guardian Council.

              The Guardian Council comprises twelve jurists including six appointed by the Supreme Leader. The others are elected by the Parliament from among the jurists nominated by the Head of the Judiciary. The Council interprets the constitution and may veto Parliament. If a law is deemed incompatible with the constitution or Sharia (Islamic law), it is referred back to Parliament for revision. The Expediency Council has the authority to mediate disputes between Parliament and the Guardian Council, and serves as an advisory body to the Supreme Leader, making it one of the most powerful governing bodies in the country. Local city councils are elected by public vote to four-year terms in all cities and villages of Iran.

              Law

              Main articles: Judicial system of Iran and Media of Iran



              The current building of The Iranian Parliament
              The Supreme Leader appoints the head of Iran's judiciary, who in turn appoints the head of the Supreme Court and the chief public prosecutor. There are several types of courts including public courts that deal with civil and criminal cases, and revolutionary courts which deal with certain categories of offenses, including crimes against national security. The decisions of the revolutionary courts are final and cannot be appealed. The Special Clerical Court handles crimes allegedly committed by clerics, although it has also taken on cases involving lay people. The Special Clerical Court functions independently of the regular judicial framework and is accountable only to the Supreme Leader. The Court's rulings are final and cannot be appealed. The Assembly of Experts, which meets for one week annually, comprises 86 "virtuous and learned" clerics elected by adult suffrage for eight-year terms. As with the presidential and parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council determines candidates' eligibility. The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader and has the constitutional authority to remove the Supreme Leader from power at any time. It has not challenged any of the Supreme Leader's decisions.

              The state-owned Telecommunication Company of Iran handles telecommunications. The media of Iran is a mixture of private and state-owned, but books and movies must be approved by the The ministry of Ershaad before being released to the public. Iran originally received access to the internet in 1993,[citation needed] and it has become enormously popular among the Iranian youth. Iran is now the world's fourth largest country of bloggers.

              Foreign relations

              Main article: Foreign relations of Iran



              Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Iran and Russia are strategic allies, and form an axis in the Caucasus alongside Armenia.
              Iran's stated goal is to establish a new world order based on world peace, global collective security and justice. Iran's foreign relations are based on two strategic principles: eliminating outside influences in the region and pursuing extensive diplomatic contacts with developing and non-aligned countries. Iran maintains diplomatic relations with almost every member of the United Nations, except for Israel, which Iran does not recognize, and the United States since the Iranian Revolution. Since 2005, Iran's nuclear program has become the subject of contention with the Western world due to suspicions that Iran could divert the civilian nuclear technology to a weapons program. This has led the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Iran on select companies linked to this program, thus furthering its economic isolation on the international scene. The US Director of National Intelligence said in February 2009 that Iran would not realistically be able to a get a nuclear weapon until 2013, if it chose to develop one.

              Military

              Main articles: Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Defense industry of Iran
              See also: Military history of Iran and List of military equipment manufactured in Iran



              Fotros (UCAV) is considered the largest in Iran's arsenal of unmanned aerial vehicles. Iran has made several UAVs indigenously
              The Islamic Republic of Iran has two types of armed forces: the regular forces Islamic Republic of Iran Army, Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, Islamic Republic of Iran Navy and the Revolutionary Guards, totaling about 545,000 active troops. Iran also has around 350,000 Reserve Force totaling around 900,000 trained troops. Iran has a paramilitary, volunteer militia force within the IRGC, called the Basij, which includes about 90,000 full-time, active-duty uniformed members. Up to 11 million men and women are members of the Basij who could potentially be called up for service; GlobalSecurity.org estimates Iran could mobilize "up to one million men". This would be among the largest troop mobilizations in the world. In 2007, Iran's military spending represented 2.6% of the GDP or $102 per capita, the lowest figure of the Persian Gulf nations. Iran's military doctrine is based on deterrence.

              Since the Iranian Revolution, to overcome foreign embargo, Iran has developed its own military industry, produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, guided missiles, submarines, military vessels, guided missile destroyer, radar systems, helicopters and fighter planes. In recent years, official announcements have highlighted the development of weapons such as the Hoot, Kowsar, Zelzal, Fateh-110, Shahab-3 and Sejjil missiles, and a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The Fajr-3 (MIRV) is currently Iran's most advanced ballistic missile, it is a liquid fuel missile with an undisclosed range which was developed and produced domestically.

              Economy

              Main article: Economy of Iran
              See also: Iranian subsidy reform plan, Tehran Stock Exchange, Transport in Iran and Communications in Iran



              Tehran is the country's capital. Tehran hosts 45% of Iran's industries.
              Iran's economy is a mixture of central planning, state ownership of oil and other large enterprises, village agriculture, and small-scale private trading and service ventures. In 2011 GDP was $482.4 billion ($1.003 trillion at PPP), or $13,200 at PPP per capita. Iran is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank. In the early 21st century the service sector contributed the largest percentage of the GDP, followed by industry (mining and manufacturing) and agriculture. The Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for developing and maintaining the Iranian rial, which serves as the country's currency. The government doesn't recognize trade unions other than the Islamic Labour Councils, which are subject to the approval of employers and the security services. The minimum wage in June 2013 was 487 million rials a month (US$ 134). Unemployment has remained above 10% since 1997, and the unemployment rate for wome
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