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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

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Introduction ::


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 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 - a popularly elected 86-member body of clerics. 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, UN, and EU economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement in terrorism and its nuclear weapons ambitions. 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, through the control of unelected institutions, prevented reform measures from being enacted and increased repressive measures. 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. The UN Security Council has passed a number of resolutions (1696 in July 2006, 1737 in December 2006, 1747 in March 2007, 1803 in March 2008, and 1835 in September 2008) calling for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities and comply with its IAEA obligations and responsibilities. Resolutions 1737, 1477, and 1803 subject a number of Iranian individuals and entities involved in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs to sanctions. Additionally, several Iranian entities are subject to US sanctions under Executive Order 13382 designations for proliferation activities and EO 13224 designations for support of terrorism.



Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan

Map references:

Middle East


total: 1,648,195 sq km

country comparison to the world: 18

land: 1,531,595 sq km

water: 116,600 sq km

Area - comparative:

slightly smaller 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)


Current Weather

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:

76,500 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources:

137.5 cu km (1997)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):

total: 72.88 cu km/yr (7%/2%/91%)

per capita: 1,048 cu m/yr (2000)

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, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note:

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

People ::Iran


67,037,517 (July 2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 19

Age structure:

0-14 years: 21.3% (male 7,327,230/female 6,960,291)

15-64 years: 73.2% (male 24,852,259/female 24,246,815)

65 years and over: 5.4% (male 1,740,268/female 1,910,654) (2010 est.)

Median age:

total: 27.6 years

male: 27.4 years

female: 27.8 years (2010 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.94% (2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 126

Birth rate:

17.33 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 117

Death rate:

5.76 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 170

Net migration rate:

-2.17 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 137


urban population: 68% of total population (2008)

rate of urbanization: 2.1% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.91 male(s)/female

total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2010 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 34.66 deaths/1,000 live births

country comparison to the world: 71

male: 34.88 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 34.43 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 71.43 years

country comparison to the world: 132

male: 69.9 years

female: 73.03 years (2010 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.7 children born/woman (2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 168

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.2% (2007 est.)

country comparison to the world: 102

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

86,000 (2007 est.)

country comparison to the world: 49

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

4,300 (2007 est.)

country comparison to the world: 47

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: intermediate

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever and malaria

note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2009)


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%


Muslim 98% (Shia 89%, Sunni 9%), other (includes 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: 77%

male: 83.5%

female: 70.4% (2002 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

total: 13 years

male: 13 years

female: 13 years (2005)

Education expenditures:

5.1% of GDP (2006)

country comparison to the world: 66


Iran is a theocratic Islamic republic governed under the constitution of 1979, as revised in 1989, when presidential powers were expanded and the post of prime minister eliminated. Appointed, rather than elected, offices and bodies hold the real power in the government. The supreme leader, who effectively serves as the chief of state, is appointed for life by an Islamic religious advisory board (the Assembly of Experts). The supreme leader oversees the military and judiciary and appoints members of the Guardian Council and the Expediency Discernment Council. The former, some of whose members are appointed by the judiciary and approved by parliament, works in close conjunction with the government and must approve both candidates for political office and legislation passed by parliament. The latter is a body responsible for resolving disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council over legislation. The president, who is popularly elected for a four-year term, serves as the head of government. The legislative branch consists of the 290-seat Islamic consultative assembly, or parliament, whose members are elected by popular vote for four-year terms.

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


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)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins fourth Monday in March; ends fourth Wednesday in September

Administrative divisions:

30 provinces (ostanha, singular - ostan); Ardabil, Azarbayjan-e Gharbi, Azarbayjan-e Sharqi, Bushehr, Chahar Mahal va Bakhtiari, Esfahan, Fars, Gilan, Golestan, Hamadan, Hormozgan, Ilam, Kerman, Kermanshah, Khorasan-e Jonubi (North Khorasan), Khorasan-e Razavi (Razavi Khorasan), Khorasan-e Shomali (South Khorasan), Khuzestan, Kohgiluyeh va Bowyer 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)


2-3 December 1979; revised in 1989

note: the revision in 1989 expanded powers of the presidency and eliminated the prime ministership

Legal system:

based on sharia law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:

chief of state: Supreme Leader Ali Hoseini-KHAMENEI (since 4 June 1989)

head of government: President Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD (since 3 August 2005); First Vice President Mohammad Reza RAHIMI (since 13 September 2009)

cabinet: Council of Ministers selected by the president with legislative approval; the Supreme Leader has some control over appointments to the more sensitive ministries

(For more information visit the World Leaders website )

note: also considered part of the Executive branch of government are three oversight bodies: 1) Assembly of Experts (Majles-Khebregan), a popularly elected body charged with determining the succession of the Supreme Leader, reviewing his performance, and deposing him if deemed necessary; 2) Expediency Council or the Council for the Discernment of Expediency (Majma-e-Tashkhis-e-Maslahat-e-Nezam) exerts supervisory authority over the executive, judicial, and legislative branches and resolves legislative issues on which the Majles and the Council of Guardians disagree and since 1989 has been used to advise national religious leaders on matters of national policy; in 2005 the Council's powers were expanded to act as a supervisory body for the government; 3) Council of Guardians of the Constitution or Council of Guardians or Guardians Council (Shora-ye Negban-e Qanon-e Asassi) determines whether proposed legislation is both constitutional and faithful to Islamic law, vets candidates in popular elections for suitability, and supervises national elections

elections: Supreme Leader appointed for life by the Assembly of Experts; president elected by popular vote for a four-year term (eligible for a second term and third nonconsecutive term); election last held on 12 June 2009;(next presidential election slated for June 2013)

election results: Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD reelected president; percent of vote - Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD 62.6%, Mir-Hosein MUSAVI-Khamenei 33.8%, other 3.6%; voter turnout 85% (according to official figures published by the government)

Legislative branch:

unicameral Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majles-e-Shura-ye-Eslami or Majles (290 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)

elections: last held on 14 March 2008 with a runoff held on 25 April 2008 (next to be held in 2012)

election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party - conservatives/Islamists 167, reformers 39, independents 74, religious minorities 5, other 5

Judicial branch:

The Supreme Court (Qeveh Qazaieh) and the four-member High Council of the Judiciary have a single head and overlapping responsibilities; together they supervise the enforcement of all laws and establish judicial and legal policies; lower courts include 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; often political parties or coalitions are formed prior to elections and disbanded soon thereafter; a loose pro-reform coalition called the 2nd Khordad Front, which includes political parties as well as less formal groups and organizations, achieved considerable success in elections for the sixth Majles in early 2000; groups in the coalition included the 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; following his defeat in the 2005 presidential elections, former MCS Secretary General and sixth Majles Speaker Mehdi KARUBI formed the National Trust Party; a new conservative group, Islamic Iran Developers Coalition (Abadgaran), took a leading position in the new Majles after winning a majority of the seats in February 2004; following the 2004 Majles elections, traditional and hardline conservatives have attempted to close ranks under the United Front of Principlists and the Broad Popular Coalition of Principlists; several reformist groups, such as the Mujahadin of the Islamic Revolution, came together as a reformist coalition in advance of the 2008 Majles elections; the IIPF has repeatedly complained that the overwhelming majority of its candidates have been unfairly disqualified from the 2008 elections

Political pressure groups and leaders:

groups that generally support the Islamic Republic: Ansar-e Hizballah-Islamic Coalition Party (Motalefeh); Followers of the Line of the Imam and the Leader; Islamic Engineers Society; Tehran Militant Clergy Association (Ruhaniyat); active pro-reform student group: Office of Strengthening Unity (OSU); opposition groups: Baluchistan People's Party (BPP); Freedom Movement of Iran; Green Path Movement [Mehdi KARUBI, Mir-Hosein MUSAVI]; Marz-e Por Gohar; National Front; and various ethnic and Monarchist organizations; armed political groups that have been repressed by the government: Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI); Jundallah; Komala; Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO); People's Fedayeen; People's Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK)

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 - the US Interests Section is located in the Embassy of Switzerland No. 39 Shahid Mousavi (Golestan 5th), Pasdaran Ave., Tehran, Iran; telephone [98] 21 2254 2178/2256 5273; FAX [98] 21 2258 0432

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

Economy - overview:

Iran's economy is marked by an inefficient state sector, reliance on the oil sector, which provides the majority of government revenues, and statist policies, which create major distortions throughout the system. Most economic activity is controlled by the state. Private sector activity is typically limited to small-scale workshops, farming, and services. Price controls, subsidies, and other rigidities weigh down the economy, undermining the potential for private-sector-led growth. Significant informal market activity flourishes. The legislature recently passed President Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD's bill to reduce subsidies, particularly on food and energy. The bill would phase out subsidies - which benefit Iran's upper and middle classes the most - over three to five years and replace them with cash payments to Iran's lower classes. This is the most extensive economic reform since the government elevated gasoline rationing in 2007. However, previous government-led efforts to reform subsidies - such as in the 1990s under former president Hashemi RAFSANJANI - were met with stiff resistance and violent protests. High oil prices in recent years allowed Iran to greatly increase its export earnings and amass nearly $100 billion in foreign exchange reserves. But with Iran's oil export price from March to December 2009 averaging just $55 per barrel and with a slight decline in oil production over the past four years, the Iranian government is facing budget constraints, and Iran's foreign exchange reserves dipped to $81 billion at the end of 2009. Tehran formulated its 2009 budget to anticipate lower oil prices and has reduced some spending. Although inflation has fallen substantially because of lower oil prices, Iran continues to suffer from double-digit unemployment and underemployment. Underemployment among Iran's educated youth has convinced many to seek jobs overseas, resulting in a significant "brain drain."

About 10% of the land in Iran is arable; agriculture contributes just over 20% to the gross national product and employs a third of the labor force. The main food-producing areas are in the Caspian region and in the valleys of the northwest. Wheat, the most important crop, is grown mainly in the west and northwest; rice is the major crop in the Caspian region. Barley, corn, cotton, sugar beets, tea, hemp, tobacco, fruits (including citrus), nuts, and dates are also grown, and livestock is raised. Illicit cultivation of the opium poppy is fairly common.

The principal obstacles to agricultural production are primitive farming methods, overworked and underfertilized soil, poor seed, and scarcity of water. About one third of the cultivated land is irrigated; the construction of multipurpose dams and reservoirs along the rivers in the Zagros and Elburz mts. has increased the amount of water available for irrigation. Agricultural programs of modernization, mechanization, and crop and livestock improvement, and programs for the redistribution of land are increasing agricultural production.

The northern slopes of the Elburz Mts. are heavily wooded, and forestry products are economically important; the cutting of trees is rigidly controlled by the government, which also has a reforestation program. In the rivers entering the Caspian Sea are salmon, carp, trout, and pike; sturgeon are abundant in the Caspian Sea.

Of the variety of natural resources found in Iran, petroleum (discovered in 1908 in Khuzestan province) and natural gas are by far the most important. The chief oil fields are found in the central and southwestern parts of the Zagros Mts. in W Iran. Oil also is found in N Iran and in the offshore waters of the Persian Gulf. Domestic oil and gas, along with hydroelectric power facilities, provide the country with power.

The petroleum industry is Iran's economic mainstay; oil accounts for 80% of export revenues, and Iran is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Major refineries are located at Abadan (site of the country's first refinery, built 1913), Kermanshah, and Tehran. Pipelines move oil from the fields to the refineries and to such exporting ports as Abadan, Bandar-e Mashur, and Khark Island. In the late 1990s, Iran's state-owned oil and gas industry entered into major exploration and production agreements with foreign consortiums.

Textiles are the second most important industrial product; Tehran and Esfahan are the chief textile-producing centers. Other major industries are sugar refining, food processing, and the production of petrochemicals, cement and other building materials, and machinery. There is an iron and steel plant at Esfahan and a fertilizer plant at Shiraz. Traditional handicrafts such as carpet weaving and the manufacture of ceramics, silk, and jewelry are also important to the economy.

Besides crude and refined petroleum, Iran's chief exports are carpets, fruits, nuts, hides, and iron and steel; its chief imports are machinery, metals, military supplies, food, and chemicals. Iran's chief trading partners are Japan, Germany, and Italy. Khorramshahr, on the Shatt al Arab, is the country's chief general cargo port; Bandar-e Anzali is the chief Caspian port. A network of roads links the villages with the larger cities; most of the principal routes are paved. The Trans-Iranian RR links N Iran with the Persian Gulf.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$876 billion (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 17

$853.8 billion (2008 est.)

$801.7 billion (2007 est.)

note: data are in 2009 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):

$335.7 billion (2009 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

2.6% (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 70

3.5% (2008)

6.5% (2007)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$12,900 (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 87

$13,000 (2008 est.)

$12,300 (2007 est.)

note: data are in 2009 US dollars

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 10.9%

industry: 45.2%

services: 43.9% (2009 est.)

Labor force:

25.02 million

country comparison to the world: 22
note: shortage of skilled labor (2009 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 25%

industry: 31%

services: 45% (June 2007)

Unemployment rate:

11.8% (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 129

10.3% (2008 est.)

note: data are according to the Iranian Government

Population below poverty line:

18% (2007 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 2.6%

highest 10%: 29.6% (2005)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

44.5 (2006)

country comparison to the world: 45

Investment (gross fixed):

27.7% of GDP (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 36


revenues: $96.94 billion

expenditures: $93.04 billion (2009 est.):

Public debt:

16.7% of GDP (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 110

18.6% of GDP (2008 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

13.5% (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 212

25.6% (2008 est.)

note: official Iranian estimate

Commercial bank prime lending rate:

NA% (31 December 2008)

country comparison to the world: 74

12% (31 December 2007)

Stock of money:

$44.79 billion (31 December 2008)

country comparison to the world: 27

$46.13 billion (31 December 2007)

Stock of quasi money:

$72.33 billion (31 December 2008)

country comparison to the world: 32

$68.71 billion (31 December 2007)

Stock of domestic credit:

$NA (31 December 2008)

$109.7 billion (31 December 2007)

Market value of publicly traded shares:

$NA (31 December 2009)

country comparison to the world: 52

$49.04 billion (31 December 2008)

$45.57 billion (31 December 2007)

Agriculture - products:

wheat, rice, other grains, sugar beets, sugar cane, fruits, nuts, cotton; dairy products, wool; caviar


petroleum, petrochemicals, fertilizers, caustic soda, textiles, cement and other construction materials, food processing (particularly sugar refining and vegetable oil production), ferrous and non-ferrous metal fabrication, armaments

Industrial production growth rate:

4% excluding oil (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 31

Electricity - production:

192.6 billion kWh (2007 est.)

country comparison to the world: 20

Electricity - consumption:

153.8 billion kWh (2007 est.)

country comparison to the world: 21

Electricity - exports:

2.52 billion kWh (2007 est.)

Electricity - imports:

1.842 billion kWh (2007 est.)

Oil - production:

3.74 million bbl/day (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 5

Oil - consumption:

1.497 million bbl/day (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 18

Oil - exports:

2.21 million bbl/day (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 8

Oil - imports:

162,500 bbl/day (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 53

Oil - proved reserves:

137.6 billion bbl based on Iranian claims

country comparison to the world: 3

note: Iran has about 10% of world reserves (1 January 2010 est.)

Natural gas - production:

116.3 billion cu m (2008 est.)

country comparison to the world: 5

Natural gas - consumption:

119 billion cu m (2008 est.)

country comparison to the world: 4

Natural gas - exports:

4.246 billion cu m (2008 est.)

country comparison to the world: 29

Natural gas - imports:

7.048 billion cu m (2008 est.)

country comparison to the world: 27

Natural gas - proved reserves:

29.61 trillion cu m (1 January 2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 2

Current account balance:

$2.653 billion (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 35

$23.99 billion (2008 est.)


$70.32 billion (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 37

$100.6 billion (2008 est.)

Exports - commodities:

petroleum 80%, chemical and petrochemical products, fruits and nuts, carpets

Exports - partners:

China 15.2%, Japan 14.2%, India 9.2%, South Korea 6.4%, Turkey 6.4%, Italy 4.5% (2008)


$57.16 billion (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 42

$68.53 billion (2008 est.)

Imports - commodities:

industrial raw materials and intermediate goods, capital goods, foodstuffs and other consumer goods, technical services

Imports - partners:

UAE 18.8%, China 12.6%, Germany 9%, South Korea 6.8%, Russia 5.2%, Italy 5%, France 4.1% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$81.31 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 21

$96.56 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Debt - external:

$18.73 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 70

$21.06 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:

$7.854 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 81

$6.954 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:

$825 million (31 December 2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 73

$625 million (31 December 2008 est.)

Exchange rates:

Iranian rials (IRR) per US dollar - 9,900 (2009), 9,142.8 (2008), 9,407.5 (2007), 9,227.1 (2006), 8,964 (2005)

note: Iran has been using a managed floating exchange rate regime since unifying multiple exchange rates in March 2002


Telephones - main lines in use:

24.8 million (2008)

country comparison to the world: 12

Telephones - mobile cellular:

43 million (2008)

country comparison to the world: 27

Telephone system:

general assessment: 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: the addition of new fiber cables and modern switching and exchange systems installed by Iran's state-owned telecom company have improved and expanded the fixed-line network greatly; fixed-line availability has more than doubled to nearly 25 million lines since 2000; additionally, mobile-cellular service has increased dramatically serving 43 million subscribers in 2008; combined fixed and mobile-cellular subscribership now exceeds 100 per 100 persons

international: country code - 98; 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; HF radio and microwave radio relay to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Syria, Kuwait, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; satellite earth stations - 13 (9 Intelsat and 4 Inmarsat) (2009)

Internet country code:


Internet users:

23 million (2008)

country comparison to the world: 17



316 (2009)

country comparison to the world: 24


19 (2009)


condensate 7 km; condensate/gas 12 km; gas 19,246 km; liquid petroleum gas 570 km; oil 7,018 km; refined products 7,936 km (2009)


total: 8,442 km

country comparison to the world: 26

broad gauge: 94 km 1.676-m gauge

standard gauge: 8,348 km 1.435-m gauge (148 km electrified) (2008)


total: 172,927 km

country comparison to the world: 29

paved: 125,908 km (includes 1,429 km of expressways)

unpaved: 47,019 km (2006)


850 km (on Karun River; additional service on Lake Urmia) (2008)

country comparison to the world: 70

Merchant marine:

total: 74

country comparison to the world: 60

by type: bulk carrier 18, cargo 34, chemical tanker 4, container 6, liquefied gas 1, passenger/cargo 4, petroleum tanker 2, refrigerated cargo 2, roll on/roll off 3

foreign-owned: 1 (UAE 1)

registered in other countries: 115 (Barbados 2, Bolivia 1, Cyprus 10, Hong Kong 15, Malta 79, Panama 7, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1) (2008)

Ports and terminals:

Assaluyeh, Bandar Abbas, Bandar-e-Eman Khomeyni


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, IRIAF; Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enqelab-e Eslami, IRGC): Ground Resistance Forces, Navy, Air Force, Qods Force (special operations), Basij Force (Popular Mobilization Army); Law Enforcement Forces (2010)

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)

Manpower available for military service:

males age 16-49: 20,763,890

females age 16-49: 20,157,570 (2010 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:

males age 16-49: 17,844,536

females age 16-49: 17,312,808 (2010 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:

male: 636,558

female: 604,658 (2010 est.)

Military expenditures:

2.5% of GDP (2006)

country comparison to the world: 60

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): 914,268 (Afghanistan); 54,024 (Iraq) (2007)

Trafficking in persons:

current situation: Iran is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude; Iranian women are trafficked internally for the purpose of forced prostitution and for forced marriages to settle debts; Iranian and Afghan children living in Iran are trafficked internally for the purpose of forced marriages, commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude as beggars or laborers to pay debts, provide income or support drug addiction of their families; press reports indicate that criminal organizations play a significant role in human trafficking to and from Iran, in connection with smuggling of migrants, drugs, and arms

tier rating: Tier 3 - Iran did not provide evidence of law enforcement activities against trafficking, and credible reports indicate that Iranian authorities' response is not sufficient to penalize offenders, protect victims, and eliminate trafficking; some aspects of Iranian law and policy hinder efforts to combat trafficking including punishment of victims and legal obstacles to punishing offenders; Iran has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol (2009)

Illicit drugs:

despite substantial interdiction efforts and considerable control measures along the border with Afghanistan, Iran remains one of the primary transshipment routes for Southwest Asian heroin to Europe; suffers one of the highest opiate addiction rates in the world, and has an increasing problem with synthetic drugs; lacks anti-money laundering laws; has reached out to neighboring countries to share counter-drug intelligence

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