Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and Shah Mohammad Reza PAHLAVI was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces led by Ayatollah Ruhollah KHOMEINI 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 (AOE) - a popularly elected 88-member body of clerics. US-Iranian relations became strained when a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and held embassy personnel hostages until mid-January 1981. The US cut off diplomatic relations with Iran in April 1980. During the period 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. Iran has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism and was subject to US, UN, and EU economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement in terrorism and concerns over possible military dimensions of its nuclear program until Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Implementation Day in 2016. The US began gradually re-imposing sanctions on Iran after the US withdrawal from JCPOA in May 2018. Following the election of reformer Hojjat ol-Eslam Mohammad KHATAMI as president in 1997 and a reformist Majles (legislature) in 2000, a campaign to foster political reform in response to popular dissatisfaction was initiated. The movement floundered as conservative politicians, supported by the Supreme Leader, unelected institutions of authority like the Council of Guardians, and the security services reversed and blocked reform measures while increasing security repression. 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. His controversial reelection in June 2009 sparked nationwide protests over allegations of electoral fraud, but the protests were quickly suppressed. Deteriorating economic conditions due primarily to government mismanagement and international sanctions prompted at least two major economically based protests in July and October 2012, but Iran's internal security situation remained stable. President AHMADI-NEJAD's independent streak angered regime establishment figures, including the Supreme Leader, leading to conservative opposition to his agenda for the last year of his presidency, and an alienation of his political supporters. In June 2013 Iranians elected a centrist cleric Dr. Hasan Fereidun ROHANI to the presidency. He is a longtime senior member in the regime, but has made promises of reforming society and Iran's foreign policy. The UN Security Council has passed a number of resolutions calling for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities and comply with its IAEA obligations and responsibilities, and in July 2015 Iran and the five permanent members, plus Germany (P5+1) signed the JCPOA under which Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Iran held elections in 2016 for the AOE and Majles, resulting in a conservative-controlled AOE and a Majles that many Iranians perceive as more supportive of the ROHANI administration than the previous, conservative-dominated body. ROHANI was reelected president in May 2017. Economic concerns once again led to nationwide protests in December 2017 and January 2018 but they were contained by Iran's security services. Additional widespread economic protests broke out in November 2019 in response to the raised price of subsidized gasoline.



32.0° N, 53. 0° E
Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan


1,648,195 sq km
1,531,595 sq km
116,600 sq km

land boundaries

5,894 km


2,440 km


mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast


rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts


1,305 m
lowest point
Caspian Sea
-28 m
highest point
Kuh-e Damavand
5,625 m

natural resources

  • petroleum
  • natural gas
  • coal
  • chromium
  • copper
  • iron ore
  • lead
  • manganese
  • zinc
  • sulfur

land use

arable land
10.8 %
permanent crops
1.2 %
permanent pasture
18.1 %
6.8 %
63.1 %

population distribution

population is concentrated in the north, northwest, and west, reflecting the position of the Zagros and Elburz Mountains; the vast dry areas in the center and eastern parts of the country, around the deserts of the Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut, have a much lower population density



  • 84,923,314
  • 17
    global rank


  • Iranian(s)
  • Iranian

ethnic groups

  • Persian
  • Azeri
  • Kurd
  • Lur
  • Baloch
  • Arab
  • Turkmen and Turkic tribes


  • Persian Farsi
  • Azeri and other Turkic dialects
  • Kurdish
  • Gilaki and Mazandarani
  • Luri
  • Balochi
  • Arabic


99.4 %
0.3 %
0.4 %

birth rate

  • 16.3
    per 1,000 population
  • 107
    global rank

death rate

  • 5.3
    per 1,000 population
  • 189
    global rank

urban population

75.9 %

major urban areas

  • Tehran
    pop. 9,135,000
  • Mashhad
    pop. 3,152,000
  • Esfahan
    pop. 2,086,000
  • Shiraz
    pop. 1,628,000
  • Karaj
    pop. 1,581,000
  • Tabriz
    pop. 1,596,000

life expectancy

  • 74.5
    total population
  • 131
    global rank

adult obesity rate

  • 25.8%
    percent of adults
  • 47
    global rank


country name


  • Islamic Republic of Iran
    long form
  • Iran
    short form


  • Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran
    long form
  • Iran
    short form

government type

theocratic republic


35.42 N, 51.25 E


national holidays

  • Republic Day
    1 April

legal system

religious legal system based on secular and Islamic law

age of suffrage


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; green is the color of Islam and also represents growth, white symbolizes honesty and peace, red stands for bravery and martyrdom

national colors

  • green
  • white
  • red

national anthem

"Soroud-e Melli-ye Jomhouri-ye Eslami-ye Iran" (National Anthem of the Islamic Republic of Iran)



Iran's economy is marked by statist policies, inefficiencies, and reliance on oil and gas exports, but Iran also possesses significant agricultural, industrial, and service sectors. The Iranian government directly owns and operates hundreds of state-owned enterprises and indirectly controls many companies affiliated with the country's security forces. Distortions - including corruption, price controls, subsidies, and a banking system holding billions of dollars of non-performing loans - weigh down the economy, undermining the potential for private-sector-led growth. Private sector activity includes small-scale workshops, farming, some manufacturing, and services, in addition to medium-scale construction, cement production, mining, and metalworking. Significant informal market activity flourishes and corruption is widespread. The lifting of most nuclear-related sanctions under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in January 2016 sparked a restoration of Iran’s oil production and revenue that drove rapid GDP growth, but economic growth declined in 2017 as oil production plateaued. The economy continues to suffer from low levels of investment and declines in productivity since before the JCPOA, and from high levels of unemployment, especially among women and college-educated Iranian youth. In May 2017, the re-election of President Hasan RUHANI generated widespread public expectations that the economic benefits of the JCPOA would expand and reach all levels of society. RUHANI will need to implement structural reforms that strengthen the banking sector and improve Iran’s business climate to attract foreign investment and encourage the growth of the private sector. Sanctions that are not related to Iran’s nuclear program remain in effect, and these—plus fears over the possible re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions—will continue to deter foreign investors from engaging with Iran.


1,640,000,000,000 USD

agriculture products

  • wheat
  • rice
  • grains
  • sugar beets
  • sugarcane
  • fruits
  • nuts
  • cotton
  • dairy products
  • wool
  • caviar

poverty level



  • 74,400,000,000
    revenue (USD)
  • 84,450,000,000
    expenditures (USD)



    fixed lines

  • 30,481,734
    total subscriptions
  • 8
    global rank

    mobile cellular

  • 88,722,442
    total subscriptions
  • 18
    global rank

broadcast media

state-run broadcast media with no private, independent broadcasters; Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the state-run TV broadcaster, operates 19 nationwide channels including a news channel, about 34 provincial channels, and several international channels; about 20 foreign Persian-language TV stations broadcasting on satellite TV are capable of being seen in Iran; satellite dishes are illegal and, while their use is subjectively tolerated, authorities confiscate satellite dishes from time to time; IRIB operates 16 nationwide radio networks, a number of provincial stations, and an external service; most major international broadcasters transmit to Iran (2019)


country code


  • 58,117,322
  • 70
    % of population
  • 14
    global rank


electricity access



air transport

    national system

  • 15
    registered air carriers
  • 15,003,958
    annual passenger traffic


  • 319
  • 140


8,484 km
total length


223,485 km
total length


850 km
total length



expenditures here

service age