Iran at a Glance
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a country in the Middle East (West Asia). Iran is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan and Russia are also Iran’s direct neighbors to the north. Iran is bordered 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 Kuwait and on the northwest by Turkey.
With an area of 1,648, 195 km2 Iran is the 18th largest country in the world, with a population of 80 mn. It has an important geographic- strategic location in the Middle East, close to Europe and Central Asia. It borders Armenia, Republic of Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan in the north. Since it borders the Caspian Sea – considered an enclosed sea with joint ownership – it is also a direct neighbor of the Caucuses and Russia.
It borders Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east, the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in the south, Iraq in the west, and Turkey in the northwest. Tehran is the capital, the largest city of Iran and its political, cultural, commercial, and industrial center. Due to its great oil and gas resources, Iran is a powerful country in the region and plays an important role in the security of international energy and economy resources. The Islamic Republic is the official government of Iran. Iran is of particular geo- political importance because of its location in the Middle East and adjacency to the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf. Additionally it has a strategic location in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, which is a vital point for passage of crude oil.
Regions, provinces and cities
Iran is divided into five regions with 31 provinces (ostān), each governed by an appointed governor (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 2016, the urban proportion of the population increased from 27% to 74%. The United Nations predicts that by 2030, 80% of the population will be urban. Most internal migrants have settled near the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Mashhad, Ahvaz, and Qom.
Tehran, with a population of around 8.7 mn (2016 census), is the capital and largest city in Iran. It is an economical and cultural center in Iran, and is the hub of the country’s communication and transport network.
Iran is one of the world’s oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Proto- Elamite and Elamite kingdoms in 3200–2800 BC. The country unified by the Persian Medes in 625 BC for the first time, who became the dominant cultural and political power in the region. Iran reached the highest stance during the Achaemenid Empire, which is founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. At its greatest extent stretched from parts of Eastern Europe 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, but reemerged shortly after as the Parthian Empire.
Under the Sassanid Dynasty, Iran again became one of the leading powers in the world for the next four centuries. Beginning in 633 AD, Rashidun Arabs conquered Iran and largely displaced the indigenous faiths of Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism by Sunni Islam. Iran became a major contributor to the Islamic Golden Age that followed, producing many influential scientists, scholars, artists, and thinkers. The rise of the Safavid Dynasty in 1501 led to the establishment of Twelve- Imam Shia in Islam as the official religion of Iran, marking one of the most important turning points in Iranian and Muslim history. During the 18th century, Iran reached its greatest territorial extent since the Sassanid Empire, and under Nader Shah briefly possessed what was arguably the most powerful empire at the time. Through the late 18th and 19th centuries, a series of conflicts with Russia led to significant territorial losses and the erosion of sovereignty. Popular unrest culminated in the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1906, which established a constitutional monarchy and the country’s first legislative body, the Majlis (Parliament). Following a coup d’état instigated by the U.K. and the U.S. in 1953, Iran gradually became closely aligned to with the United States and the rest of the West but grew increasingly autocratic. Growing dissent against foreign influence and political repression led to the 1979 Revolution and the establishment of an Islamic republic.
Iran’s rich cultural legacy is reflected in part by its 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the fourth- largest number in Asia and 12th- largest in the world.
Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, NAM, OIC, and OPEC. Its political system is based on the 1979 Constitution, which combines elements of a parliamentary democracy with a theocracy governed by Islamic jurists under the concept of a Supreme Leadership. A multicultural country comprising numerous ethnic and linguistic groups, most
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.
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. United Nations Resident Coordinator for Iran Gary Lewis has said that “Water scarcity poses the most severe human security challenge in Iran today”.
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 rarely 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)