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Administrative divisions (GPS Maps)


People and Society






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 and 1929 in June 2010) calling for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities and comply with its IAEA obligations and responsibilities. Resolutions 1737, 1477, 1803 and 1929 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. In mid-February 2011, opposition activists conducted the largest antiregime rallies since December 2009, spurred by the success of uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Protester turnout probably was at most tens of thousands and security forces were deployed to disperse protesters. Additional protests in March 2011 failed to elicit significant participation largely because of the robust security response, although discontent still smolders.


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

Geographic coordinates
32 00 N, 53 00 E

Map references
Middle East

Area World Ranking: 18
Total 1,648,195 sq km
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)

Maritime claims
Territorial sea 12 nm
Contiguous zone 24 nm
Exclusive economic zone
Bilateral agreements or median lines in the Persian Gulf
Continental shelf Natural prolongation

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
89,930 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


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  Iran (Tehran):

  GPS points from Iran (Tehran)

Sivan (ir02)

Takar Mazandaran

Nesareh-ye Bala Kordestan

Choorti (ir17)

Kuh-e Borm Chahar Ma All Va Bakhtiari

Zein Abad Ostan-e Yazd

Deh Sa`di Ostan-e Kerman

Sheykh Qowm Ostan-e Ilam
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