Iran, the second largest country in the Middle East, has 5,000 years of fascinating history.
Iran , officially Islamic Republic of Iran, republic (2005 est. pop. 68,018,000), 636,290 sq mi (1,648,000 sq km), is located in SW Asia. The country's name was changed from Persia to Iran in 1935.
Iran is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and the Caspian Sea; on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; and on the west by Turkey and Iraq. The Shatt al Arab forms part of the Iran-Iraq border.
Iran's capital is Tehran, largest city and the political, cultural, commercial, and industrial center of the nation.
Iran is subject to numerous and often severe earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The Iranian Plateau (a
lt. c.4,000 ft/1,200 m), which extends beyond the low ranges of E Iran into Afghanistan, is a region of interior drainage.
The climate of Iran is continental, with hot summers and cold, rainy winters; the mountain regions of the north and west have a subtropical climate. Temperature and precipitation vary with elevation, as winds bring heavy moisture from the Persian Gulf.
Iran's principal language of the country is Persian (Farsi), which is written in Arabic characters. Other languages are Turkic dialects, Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian, and Arabic. Among the educated classes, English and French are spoken.
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.
Iran is a rich country in natural gas and petroleum resources, and when that economic power is combined with its outwardly-friendly and hard working people, a troubled past certainly points to a bright future.
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.
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.