Iran is a sovereign state in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia, the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the exclave of Nakhchivan; to the north by the Caspian Sea; to the northeast by Turkmenistan; to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. With over 79.92 million inhabitants (as of March 2017), Iran is the world’s 18th-most-populous country. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second-largest country in the Middle East and the 18th-largest in the world. It is the only country with both a Caspian Sea and an Indian Ocean coastline. The country’s central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, make it of great geostrategic importance. Tehran is the country’s capital and largest city, as well as its leading economic and cultural center.

Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdoms in the 4th millennium BC. It was first unified by the Iranian Medes in the 7th century BC, and reached its greatest extent during the Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC, stretching from Eastern Europe to the Indus Valley, becoming the largest empire the world had yet seen. The Iranian realm fell to Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, but reemerged shortly after as the Parthian Empire, followed by the Sasanian Empire, which became a leading world power for the next four centuries.

Arab Muslims conquered the empire in the 7th century AD, largely displacing the indigenous faiths of Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism with Islam. Iran made major contributions to the Islamic Golden Age that followed, producing many influential figures in art and science. The rise of the Safavids in the 15th century led to the reestablishment of a unified Iranian state and national identity, which followed the country’s conversion to Shia Islam, marking a turning point in Iranian and Muslim history. By the 18th century, under Nader Shah, Iran briefly possessed what was arguably the most powerful empire at the time. The 19th-century conflicts with the Russian Empire led to significant territorial losses. Popular unrest culminated in the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, which established a constitutional monarchy and the country’s first legislature. Following a coup instigated by the United Kingdom and the United States in 1953, Iran gradually became closely aligned with the West, and grew increasingly autocratic. Growing dissent against foreign influence and political repression led to the 1979 Revolution, which followed the establishment of an Islamic republic, a political system which includes elements of a parliamentary democracy vetted and supervised by a theocracy governed by an autocratic “Supreme Leader”. During the 1980s, the country was engaged in a war with Iraq, which lasted for almost nine years and resulted in a high number of casualties and financial loss for both sides.

Since the 2000s, Iran’s controversial nuclear program has raised concerns, which is part of the basis of the international sanctions against the country. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1, was created on July 14, 2015, aimed to loosen the nuclear sanctions in exchange for Iran’s restriction in producing enriched uranium.

Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, NAM, OIC, and OPEC. It is a major regional and middle power, and its large reserves of fossil fuels – which include the world’s largest natural gas supply and the fourth-largest proven oil reserves – exert considerable influence in international energy security and the world economy. The country’s rich cultural legacy is reflected in part by its 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the third-largest number in Asia and 11th-largest in the world. Iran is a multicultural country comprising numerous ethnic and linguistic groups, the largest being Persians (61%), Azeris (16%), Kurds (10%), and Lurs (6%).

Foreign relations

The Iranian government’s officially stated goal is to establish a new world order based on world peace, global collective security, and justice. Since the time of the 1979 Revolution, Iran’s foreign relations have often been portrayed as being based on two strategic principles; eliminating outside influences in the region, and pursuing extensive diplomatic contacts with developing and non-aligned countries.

As of 2009, Iran maintains diplomatic relations with 99 members of the United Nations, but not with the United States, and not with Israel—a state which Iran’s government has derecognized since the 1979 Revolution. On July 14, 2015, Tehran and the P5+1 came to a historic agreement to end economic sanctions after demonstrating a peaceful nuclear research project that would meet the International Atomic Energy Agency standards.

Iran is a member of dozens of international organizations, including the G-15, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, IDA, IDB, IFC, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, OIC, OPEC, WHO, and the United Nations, and currently has observer status at the World Trade Organization.

Economy

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. The estimated figure of 2017, GDP is $438.3 billion ($1.551 trillion at PPP), or $19,0500 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.

In 2006, about 45% of the government’s budget came from oil and natural gas revenues, and 31% came from taxes and fees. As of 2007, Iran had earned $70 billion in foreign exchange reserves mostly (80%) from crude oil exports. Iranian budget deficits have been a chronic problem, mostly due to large-scale state subsidies, that include foodstuffs and especially gasoline, totaling more than $84 billion in 2008 for the energy sector alone. In 2010, the economic reform plan was approved by parliament to cut subsidies gradually and replace them with targeted social assistance. The objective is to move towards free market prices in a 5-year period and increase productivity and social justice.

The administration continues to follow the market reform plans of the previous one and indicated that it will diversify Iran’s oil-reliant economy. Iran has also developed a biotechnology, nanotechnology, and pharmaceuticals industry. Currently, the government is trying to privatize these industries.

Iran has leading manufacturing industries in the fields of car-manufacture and transportation, construction materials, home appliances, food and agricultural goods, armaments, pharmaceuticals, information technology, power and petrochemicals in the Middle East. According to FAO, Iran has been a top five producer of the following agricultural products in the world in 2012: apricots, cherries, sour cherries, cucumbers and gherkins, dates, eggplants, figs, pistachios, quinces, walnuts, and watermelons.

Economic sanctions against Iran, such as the embargo against Iranian crude oil, have affected the economy. In 2015, Iran and the P5+1 reached a deal on the nuclear program that removed the main sanctions pertaining to Iran’s nuclear program by 2016.

Iran in Brief:

History:

  • world’s oldest country, established around 3200 BC
  • largest number of former national capitals, 31 former national capital cities

Science:

  • World’s fastest growth rate in science and technology, 1000% increase of science and technology output in 9 years
  • Space Program, 9th country in the world capable of both producing a satellite and sending it into space from a domestically made launcher
  • Stem cell research and nanotechnologies, amongst the top 10 in the world. Ranks 15th in the world in nanotechnologies

Geophysics:

  • Most accurate calendar in use, Iranian calendar

Climate:

  • Among 4 countries with most diversified weather, the smallest country among them

Industry:

  • Largest producer of Turquoise,
  • Largest reserves of Zinc
  • World’s largest producer and exporter of handmade carpets
  • leading manufacture industry, in the fields of car-manufacture and transportation, construction materials, home appliances, food and agricultural goods, armaments, pharmaceuticals, information technology, power and petrochemicals in the Middle East

Agriculture:

  • Largest pistachio producer, output of 230,000 tons
  • Largest saffron producer, 93.7% of world’s total production
  • Largest caviar producer
  • Largest producer of berries
  • Largest producer of stone fruits
  • Largest producer of Berberis

Humanitarian:

  • Host to the world’s largest population of foreign refugees

Economy:

  • GDP (PPP): $1.551tr, rank 18th in the world
  • Per Capita (PPP): $19,050
  • Tourist attraction, among the “10 most touristic countries” in the world
  • Founding Member of UN, NAM, OIC and OPEC
  • N-11 (Next 11), identified by Goldman Sachs investment bank as having a high potential of becoming, along with the BRICS, the world’s largest economies in the 21st century

Energy:

  • Ranks 2nd in the world in natural gas reserves
  • Ranks 3rd in the world oil reserves
  • OPEC’s 2nd largest oil exporter