The Zagros Mountains in southwestern Iran present an impressive landscape of long linear ridges and valleys. Formed by collision of the Eurasian and Arabian tectonic plates, the ridges and valleys extend hundreds of kilometers. This astronaut photograph of the southwestern edge of the Zagros mountain belt includes another common feature of the region - a salt dome (Kuh-e-Namak or "mountain of salt" in Farsi). Thick layers of minerals such as halite (table salt) typically accumulate in closed basins during alternating wet and dry climatic conditions. Over geologic time, these layers of salt are buried under younger layers of rock. The pressure from overlying rock layers causes the lower-density salt to flow upwards, bending the overlying rock layers and creating a dome-like structure. Erosion has spectacularly revealed the uplifted tan and brown rock layers surrounding the white Kuh-e-Namak to the northwest and southeast (center of image). Radial drainage patterns indicate another salt dome is located to the southwest (image left center). If the rising plug of salt (called a salt diapir) breaches the surface, it can become a flowing salt glacier. Salt domes are an important target for oil exploration, as the impermeable salt frequently traps petroleum beneath other rock layers. Image courtesy of NASA.
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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. Conservative clerical forces led by Ayatollah Ruhollah KHOMEINI 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 88-member body of clerics. US-Iranian relations became strained when a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and held embassy personnel hostages until mid-January 1981. The US cut off diplomatic relations with Iran in April 1980. During the period 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. Iran has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism and was subject to US, UN, and EU economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement in terrorism and concerns over possible military dimensions of its nuclear program until Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Implementation Day in 2016. The US began gradually re-imposing sanctions on Iran after the US withdrawal from JCPOA in May 2018.

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, supported by the Supreme Leader, unelected institutions of authority like the Council of Guardians, and the security services reversed and blocked reform measures while increasing security repression. 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, but the protests were quickly suppressed. Deteriorating economic conditions due primarily to government mismanagement and international sanctions prompted at least two major economically based protests in July and October 2012, but Iran's internal security situation remained stable. President AHMADI-NEJAD's independent streak angered regime establishment figures, including the Supreme Leader, leading to conservative opposition to his agenda for the last year of his presidency, and an alienation of his political supporters. In June 2013, Iranians elected a centrist cleric Dr. Hasan Fereidun RUHANI to the presidency. A longtime senior member in the regime, he made promises of reforming society and Iran's foreign policy. In July 2015, Iran and the five permanent members, plus Germany (P5+1) signed the JCPOA under which Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief; however, the US reimposed sanctions in 2018 dealing a blow to RUHANI's legacy and the Iranian economy. Negotiations to restore the deal started in 2021 and are ongoing. Iran held elections in February 2020 for the Majles and the president in June 2021, resulting in a hardline and conservative monopoly across the regime's elected and unelected institutions. President Ebrahim RAISI is a hardline cleric with a decades-long career in Iran's judiciary and has had limited foreign policy and economic experience.

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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


total: 1,648,195 sq km

land: 1,531,595 sq km

water: 116,600 sq km

country comparison to the world: 19

Area - comparative

almost 2.5 times the size of Texas; slightly smaller than Alaska

Area comparison map
Area comparison map

Land boundaries

total: 5,894 km

border countries (7): Afghanistan 921 km; Armenia 44 km; Azerbaijan 689 km; Iraq 1,599 km; Pakistan 959 km; Turkey 534 km; Turkmenistan 1,148 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


highest point: Kuh-e Damavand 5,625 m

lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m

mean elevation: 1,305 m

Natural resources

petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur

Land use

agricultural land: 30.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 10.8% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 18.1% (2018 est.)

forest: 6.8% (2018 est.)

other: 63.1% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

95,530 sq km (2012)

Major lakes (area sq km)

Salt water lake(s): Caspian Sea (shared with Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan) - 374,000 sq km; Lake Urmia - 5,200 sq km; Lake Namak - 750 sq km

Major rivers (by length in km)

Euphrates (shared with Turkey [s], Syria, and Iraq [m]) - 3,596 km; Tigris (shared with Turkey, Syria, and Iraq [m]) - 1,950 km; Helmand (shared with Afghanistan [s]) - 1,130 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Indian Ocean drainage: (Persian Gulf) Tigris and Euphrates (918,044 sq km)

Population distribution

population is concentrated in the north, northwest, and west, reflecting the position of the Zagros and Elburz Mountains; the vast dry areas in the center and eastern parts of the country, around the deserts of the Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut, have a much lower population density

Natural hazards

periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes

Geography - note

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

Map description

Iran map showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.

People and Society


noun: Iranian(s)

adjective: Iranian

Ethnic groups

Persian, Azeri, Kurd, Lur, Baloch, Arab, Turkmen, and Turkic tribes


Persian Farsi (official), Azeri and other Turkic dialects, Kurdish, Gilaki and Mazandarani, Luri, Balochi, Arabic

major-language sample(s):
چکیده نامه جهان، منبعی ضروری برای کسب اطلاعات کلی جهان (Persian)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

Persian audio sample:


Muslim (official) 99.6% (Shia 90-95%, Sunni 5-10%), other (includes Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian) 0.3%, unspecified 0.2% (2016 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 24.11% (male 10,472,844/female 10,000,028)

15-24 years: 13.36% (male 5,806,034/female 5,537,561)

25-54 years: 48.94% (male 21,235,038/female 20,327,384)

55-64 years: 7.72% (male 3,220,074/female 3,337,420)

65 years and over: 5.87% (2020 est.) (male 2,316,677/female 2,670,254)

2022 population pyramid
2022 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 45.6

youth dependency ratio: 36

elderly dependency ratio: 9.6

potential support ratio: 14.2 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 31.7 years

male: 31.5 years

female: 32 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 113

Birth rate

15.27 births/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 113

Death rate

5.17 deaths/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 190

Net migration rate

-0.3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 118

Population distribution

population is concentrated in the north, northwest, and west, reflecting the position of the Zagros and Elburz Mountains; the vast dry areas in the center and eastern parts of the country, around the deserts of the Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut, have a much lower population density


urban population: 76.8% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 1.32% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

9.382 million TEHRAN (capital), 3.318 million Mashhad, 2.219 million Esfahan, 1.699 million Shiraz, 1.644 million Tabriz, 1.587 million Karaj (2022)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female

total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2022 est.)

Maternal mortality ratio

16 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 135

Infant mortality rate

total: 14.84 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 15.97 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 13.65 deaths/1,000 live births (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 101

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 75.25 years

male: 73.89 years

female: 76.67 years (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 126

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 99.8% of population

rural: 98.1% of population

total: 99.4% of population

unimproved: urban: 0.2% of population

rural: 1.9% of population

total: 0.6% of population (2020 est.)

Physicians density

1.58 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Hospital bed density

1.6 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population (2015 est.)

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2020 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: intermediate (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever

note: a new coronavirus is causing sustained community spread of respiratory illness (COVID-19) in Iran; sustained community spread means that people have been infected with the virus, but how or where they became infected is not known, and the spread is ongoing; illness with this virus has ranged from mild to severe with fatalities reported; as of 18 August 2022, Iran has reported a total of 7,493,317 cases of COVID-19 or 8,921.36 cumulative cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population with a total of 143,160 cumulative deaths or a rate 170.44 cumulative deaths per 100,000 population

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 0.02 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 0.02 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 181

Tobacco use

total: 13.6% (2020 est.)

male: 24.1% (2020 est.)

female: 3.1% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 114


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 85.5%

male: 90.4%

female: 80.8% (2016)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 15 years

male: 15 years

female: 15 years (2017)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 23.7%

male: 21.2%

female: 36% (2020 est.)


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-London Convention, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 35.09 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 661.71 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 158.71 megatons (2020 est.)


mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast

Land use

agricultural land: 30.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 10.8% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 18.1% (2018 est.)

forest: 6.8% (2018 est.)

other: 63.1% (2018 est.)


urban population: 76.8% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 1.32% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0.01% of GDP (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 51

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: intermediate (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever

note: a new coronavirus is causing sustained community spread of respiratory illness (COVID-19) in Iran; sustained community spread means that people have been infected with the virus, but how or where they became infected is not known, and the spread is ongoing; illness with this virus has ranged from mild to severe with fatalities reported; as of 18 August 2022, Iran has reported a total of 7,493,317 cases of COVID-19 or 8,921.36 cumulative cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population with a total of 143,160 cumulative deaths or a rate 170.44 cumulative deaths per 100,000 population

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 17.885 million tons (2017 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 894,250 tons (2017 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 5% (2017 est.)

Major lakes (area sq km)

Salt water lake(s): Caspian Sea (shared with Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan) - 374,000 sq km; Lake Urmia - 5,200 sq km; Lake Namak - 750 sq km

Major rivers (by length in km)

Euphrates (shared with Turkey [s], Syria, and Iraq [m]) - 3,596 km; Tigris (shared with Turkey, Syria, and Iraq [m]) - 1,950 km; Helmand (shared with Afghanistan [s]) - 1,130 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Indian Ocean drainage: (Persian Gulf) Tigris and Euphrates (918,044 sq km)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 6.2 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 1.1 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 86 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

137.045 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)


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

etymology: name derives from the Avestan term "aryanam" meaning "Land of the Noble [Ones]"

Government type

theocratic republic


name: Tehran

geographic coordinates: 35 42 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 Wednesday in March; ends fourth Friday in September

etymology: various explanations of the city's name have been proffered, but the most plausible states that it derives from the Persian words "tah" meaning "end or bottom" and "ran" meaning "[mountain] slope" to signify "bottom of the mountain slope"; Tehran lies at the bottom slope of the Elburz Mountains

Administrative divisions

31 provinces (ostanha, singular - ostan); Alborz, Ardabil, Azarbayjan-e Gharbi (West Azerbaijan), Azarbayjan-e Sharqi (East Azerbaijan), Bushehr, Chahar Mahal va Bakhtiari, Esfahan, Fars, Gilan, Golestan, Hamadan, Hormozgan, Ilam, Kerman, Kermanshah, Khorasan-e Jonubi (South Khorasan), Khorasan-e Razavi (Razavi Khorasan), Khorasan-e Shomali (North 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); notable earlier dates: ca. 550 B.C. (Achaemenid (Persian) Empire established); A.D. 1501 (Iran reunified under the Safavid Dynasty); 1794 (beginning of Qajar Dynasty); 12 December 1925 (modern Iran established under the PAHLAVI Dynasty)

National holiday

Republic Day, 1 April (1979)


history: previous 1906; latest adopted 24 October 1979, effective 3 December 1979

amendments: proposed by the supreme leader – after consultation with the Exigency Council – and submitted as an edict to the "Council for Revision of the Constitution," a body consisting of various executive, legislative, judicial, and academic leaders and members; passage requires absolute majority vote in a referendum and approval of the supreme leader; articles including Iran’s political system, its religious basis, and its form of government cannot be amended; amended 1989

Legal system

religious legal system based on secular and Islamic law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: the father must be a citizen of Iran

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

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

head of government: President Ebrahim RAISI (since 18 June 2021); First Vice President Mohammad MOKHBER (since 8 August 2021)

cabinet: Council of Ministers selected by the president with legislative approval; the supreme leader has some control over appointments to several ministries

elections/appointments: supreme leader appointed for life by Assembly of Experts; president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 4-year term (eligible for a second term and an additional nonconsecutive term); election last held on 18 June 2021 (next to be held in June 2025)

election results: 2021: Ebrahim RAISI elected president; percent of vote - Ebrahim RAISI (CCA) 72.4%, Mohsen REZAI (RFII) 13.8%, Abbdolnaser HEMATI (ECP) 9.8%, Amir-Hosein Qazizadeh-HASHEMI (Islamic Law Party) 4%

2017: Hasan Fereidun RUHANI reelected president; percent of vote - Hasan Fereidun RUHANI (Moderation and Development Party) 58.8%, Ebrahim RAISI (Combat Clergy Association) 39.4% , Mostafa Mir-SALIM Islamic Coalition Party) 1.2%, Mostafa HASHEMI-TABA(Executives of Construction Party) 0.5%

note: 3 oversight bodies are also considered part of the executive branch of government

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majles-e Shura-ye Eslami or Majles (290 seats; 285 members directly elected in single- and multi-seat constituencies by 2-round vote, and 1 seat each for Zoroastrians, Jews, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, Armenians in the north of the country and Armenians in the south; members serve 4-year terms); note - all candidates to the Majles must be approved by the Council of Guardians, a 12-member group of which 6 are appointed by the supreme leader and 6 are jurists nominated by the judiciary and elected by the Majles

elections: first round held on 21 February 2020 and second round for 11 remaining seats held on 11 September 2020 (next full Majles election to be held in 2024)

election results: percent of vote by coalition (first round) - NA; seats by coalition (first round) - conservatives and hardliners 226, reformists 19, independents 40, religious minorities 5; as of June 2021 by-elections; composition - men 274, women 16, percent of women 5.6%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice and organized into 42 two-bench branches, each with a justice and a judge)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court president appointed by the head of the High Judicial Council (HJC), a 5-member body to include the Supreme Court chief justice, the prosecutor general, and 3 clergy, in consultation with judges of the Supreme Court; president appointed for a single, renewable 5-year term; other judges appointed by the HJC; judge tenure NA

subordinate courts: Penal Courts I and II; Islamic Revolutionary Courts; Courts of Peace; Special Clerical Court (functions outside the judicial system and handles cases involving clerics); military courts

Political parties and leaders

Combatant Clergy Association [Mostafa POURMOHAMMADI] (an active political group)
Executives of Construction Party [Hossein MARASHI]
Followers of the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent [Ali LARIJANI]
Front of Islamic Revolutionary Stability [Sadegh MAHSOULI, secretary general]
Islamic Coalition Party [Asdollah BADAMCHIAN]
Islamic Iran Participation Front [associated with former President Mohammed KHATAMI]
Islamic Law Party
Militant Clerics Society
Moderation and Development Party
National Trust Party
National Unity Party
Pervasive Coalition of Reformists [Ali SUFI, chairman] (includes Council for Coordinating the Reforms Front, National Trust Party, Union of Islamic Iran People Party, Moderation and Development Party)
Principlists Grand Coalition (includes Combatant Clergy Association and Islamic Coalition Party, Society of Devotees and Pathseekers of the Islamic Revolution, Front of Islamic Revolution Stability)
Progress, Welfare, and Justice Front [Mohammad Saeed AHADIAN]
Progress and Justice Population of Islamic Iran or PJP [Hosein GHORBANZADEH, general secretary]
Resistance Front of Islamic Iran [Yadollah HABIBI, general secretary]
Steadfastness Front
Union of Islamic Iran People's Party [Azar MANSOURI]
Wayfarers of the Islamic Revolution

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: none; Iran has an Interests Section in the Pakistani Embassy; address: Iranian Interests Section, Embassy of Pakistan, 1250 23rd Street NW, Washington, DC 20037; telephone: [1] (202) 965-4990; FAX [1] (202) 965-1073;

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none; the US Interests Section is located in the Embassy of Switzerland; US Foreign Interests Section, Embassy of Switzerland, Pasdaran, Shahid Mousavi Street (Golestan 5th), Corner of Paydarfard Street, No. 55, Tehran

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

National symbol(s)

lion; national colors: green, white, red

National anthem

name: "Soroud-e Melli-ye Jomhouri-ye Eslami-ye Iran" (National Anthem of the Islamic Republic of Iran)

lyrics/music: multiple authors/Hassan RIAHI

note 1: adopted 1990; Iran has had six national anthems; the first, entitled "Salam-e Shah" (Royal Salute) was in use from 1873-1909; next came "Salamati-ye Dowlat-e Elliye-ye Iran" (Salute of the Sublime State of Persia, 1909-1933); it was followed by "Sorud-e melli" (The Imperial Anthem of Iran; 1933-1979), which chronicled the exploits of the Pahlavi Dynasty; "Ey Iran" (Oh Iran) functioned unofficially as the national anthem for a brief period between the ouster of the Shah in 1979 and the early days of the Islamic Republic in 1980; "Payandeh Bada Iran" (Long Live Iran) was used between 1980 and 1990 during the time of Ayatollah KHOMEINI

note 2: a recording of the current Iranian national anthem is unavailable since the US Navy Band does not record anthems for countries from which the US does not anticipate official visits; the US does not have diplomatic relations with Iran

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 26 (24 cultural, 2 natural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Persepolis (c); Tchogha Zanbil (c); Bam and its Cultural Landscape (c); Golestan Palace (c); Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System (c); Pasargadae (c); Hyrcanian Forests (n); Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex (c); Meidan Emam, Esfahan (c); Bisotun (c)


Economic overview

Iran's economy is marked by statist policies, inefficiencies, and reliance on oil and gas exports, but Iran also possesses significant agricultural, industrial, and service sectors. The Iranian government directly owns and operates hundreds of state-owned enterprises and indirectly controls many companies affiliated with the country's security forces. Distortions - including corruption, price controls, subsidies, and a banking system holding billions of dollars of non-performing loans - weigh down the economy, undermining the potential for private-sector-led growth.


Private sector activity includes small-scale workshops, farming, some manufacturing, and services, in addition to medium-scale construction, cement production, mining, and metalworking. Significant informal market activity flourishes and corruption is widespread.


The lifting of most nuclear-related sanctions under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in January 2016 sparked a restoration of Iran’s oil production and revenue that drove rapid GDP growth, but economic growth declined in 2017 as oil production plateaued. The economy continues to suffer from low levels of investment and declines in productivity since before the JCPOA, and from high levels of unemployment, especially among women and college-educated Iranian youth.


In May 2017, the re-election of President Hasan RUHANI generated widespread public expectations that the economic benefits of the JCPOA would expand and reach all levels of society. RUHANI will need to implement structural reforms that strengthen the banking sector and improve Iran’s business climate to attract foreign investment and encourage the growth of the private sector. Sanctions that are not related to Iran’s nuclear program remain in effect, and these—plus fears over the possible re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions—will continue to deter foreign investors from engaging with Iran.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$1,044,310,000,000 (2020 est.)

$1,027,240,000,000 (2019 est.)

$1.102 trillion (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 23

Real GDP growth rate

3.7% (2017 est.)

12.5% (2016 est.)

-1.6% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 78

Real GDP per capita

$12,400 (2020 est.)

$12,400 (2019 est.)

$13,500 (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 120

GDP (official exchange rate)

$581.252 billion (2019 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

10% (2017 est.)

9.6% (2017 est.)

9.1% (2016 est.)

note: official Iranian estimate

country comparison to the world: 209

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 9.6% (2016 est.)

industry: 35.3% (2016 est.)

services: 55% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 49.7% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 14% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 20.6% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 14.5% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 26% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -24.9% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

wheat, sugar cane, milk, sugar beet, tomatoes, barley, potatoes, oranges, poultry, apples


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

Labor force

30.5 million (2017 est.)

note: shortage of skilled labor

country comparison to the world: 18

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 16.3%

industry: 35.1%

services: 48.6% (2013 est.)

Unemployment rate

11.8% (2017 est.)

12.4% (2016 est.)

note: data are Iranian Government numbers

country comparison to the world: 162

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 23.7%

male: 21.2%

female: 36% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 59

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.6%

highest 10%: 29.6% (2005)


revenues: 74.4 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 84.45 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

39.5% of GDP (2017 est.)

47.5% of GDP (2016 est.)

note: includes publicly guaranteed debt

country comparison to the world: 132

Fiscal year

21 March - 20 March

Current account balance

$9.491 billion (2017 est.)

$16.28 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 25


$101.4 billion (2017 est.)

$83.98 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 40

Exports - partners

China 48%, India 12%, South Korea 8%, Turkey 6%, United Arab Emirates 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

crude petroleum, polymers, industrial alcohols, iron, pistachios (2019)


$76.39 billion (2017 est.)

$63.14 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 46

Imports - partners

China 28%, United Arab Emirates 20%, India 11%, Turkey 7%, Brazil 6%, Germany 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

rice, corn, broadcasting equipment, soybean products, beef (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$120.6 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$133.7 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 22

Debt - external

$7.995 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$8.196 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 122

Exchange rates

Iranian rials (IRR) per US dollar -

32,769.7 (2017 est.)

30,914.9 (2016 est.)

30,914.9 (2015 est.)

29,011.5 (2014 est.)

25,912 (2013 est.)


Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)


installed generating capacity: 80.553 million kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 279,826,390,000 kWh (2019 est.)

exports: 6.365 billion kWh (2019 est.)

imports: 2.738 billion kWh (2019 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 34.303 billion kWh (2019 est.)

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 88.7% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 1.9% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 0.1% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 0.2% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 9.1% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)


production: 2.783 million metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 2.794 million metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 76,000 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 87,000 metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 1.203 billion metric tons (2019 est.)


total petroleum production: 3,450,300 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 1.934 million bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 2,230,900 barrels/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 33,500 barrels/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 208.6 billion barrels (2021 est.)

Natural gas

production: 237,561,415,000 cubic meters (2019 est.)

consumption: 220,704,282,000 cubic meters (2019 est.)

exports: 17,607,046,000 cubic meters (2019 est.)

imports: 1,153,457,000 cubic meters (2019 est.)

proven reserves: 33,987,296,000,000 cubic meters (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

646.038 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 5.142 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 204.21 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 436.687 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 8


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 29,093,587 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 35 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 8

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 127,624,951 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 152 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 14

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: Iran’s telecom infrastructure has suffered from sanctions in recent years, which prevented the import of equipment and devices and encouraged widespread smuggling, with a consequent loss of tax revenue; to address this, the government introduced a device registration scheme, and bolstered the capacity for domestically manufactured mobile phones; companies have invested in broadening the reach of their LTE networks, which has increased network capacity and improved the quality of mobile broadband services; the country is also looking to 5G, with services having been launched by MCI and MTN Irancell in early 2021; the sector is still limited by low frequency bands; the government is addressing this with plans to reallocate the 3.5GHz band for 5G use; Iran is keen to grow its Iran’s digital economy and the National Internet Network (NIN) is pivotal to Iran’s fixed broadband infrastructure plans and overall Smart City progress; from a broad perspective, Iran offers significant opportunities for growth in the telecoms sector; the country has one of the largest populations in the Middle East, and there is a high proportion of youthful, tech savvy users having considerable demand for both fixed and mobile telecom services; companies are offering national roaming to improve services in rural areas; TCI is allowing infrastructure sharing of its fiber network with competitors; (2022)

domestic: approximately 35 per 100 for fixed-line and 152 per 100 for mobile-cellular subscriptions; investment by Iran's state-owned telecom company has greatly improved and expanded both the fixed-line and mobile cellular networks; a huge percentage of the cell phones in the market have been smuggled into the country (2020)

international: country code - 98; landing points for Kuwait-Iran, GBICS & MENA, FALCON, OMRAN/3PEG Cable System, POI and UAE-Iran submarine fiber-optic cable to the Middle East, Africa and India; (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) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced a downturn, particularly in mobile device production; progress towards 5G implementation has resumed, as well as upgrades to infrastructure; consumer spending on telecom services has increased due to the surge in demand for capacity and bandwidth; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home is still evident, and the spike in this area has seen growth opportunities for development of new tools and increased services

Broadcast media

state-run broadcast media with no private, independent broadcasters; Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the state-run TV broadcaster, operates 19 nationwide channels including a news channel, about 34 provincial channels, and several international channels; about 20 foreign Persian-language TV stations broadcasting on satellite TV are capable of being seen in Iran; satellite dishes are illegal and, while their use is subjectively tolerated, authorities confiscate satellite dishes from time to time; IRIB operates 16 nationwide radio networks, a number of provincial stations, and an external service; most major international broadcasters transmit to Iran (2019)

Internet users

total: 75,594,081 (2020 est.)

percent of population: 84% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 9

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 9,564,195 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 11 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 21


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 22 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 237

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 25,604,871 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 290.74 million (2018) mt-km

Airports - with paved runways

total: 140

over 3,047 m: 42

2,438 to 3,047 m: 29

1,524 to 2,437 m: 26

914 to 1,523 m: 36

under 914 m: 7 (2021)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 179

over 3,047 m: 1

2,438 to 3,047 m: 2

1,524 to 2,437 m: 9

914 to 1,523 m: 135

under 914 m: 32 (2021)


26 (2021)


7 km condensate, 973 km condensate/gas, 20,794 km gas, 570 km liquid petroleum gas, 8,625 km oil, 7,937 km refined products (2013)


total: 8,483.5 km (2014)

standard gauge: 8,389.5 km (2014) 1.435-m gauge (189.5 km electrified)

broad gauge: 94 km (2014) 1.676-m gauge

country comparison to the world: 25


total: 223,485 km (2018)

paved: 195,485 km (2018)

unpaved: 28,000 km (2018)

country comparison to the world: 23


850 km (2012) (on Karun River; some navigation on Lake Urmia)

country comparison to the world: 76

Merchant marine

total: 893

by type: bulk carrier 32, container ship 31, general cargo 371, oil tanker 84, other 375 (2021)

country comparison to the world: 26

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Bandar-e Asaluyeh, Bandar Abbas, Bandar-e Emam Khomeyni

container port(s) (TEUs): Bandar Abbas

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Islamic Republic of Iran Army or Islamic Republic of Iran Regular Forces (Artesh): Islamic Republic of Iran Army Ground Forces (IRIGF), Navy (includes marines), Air Force, Air Defense Forces; Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC or Sepah): Ground Forces (IRGCGF), Navy (includes marines), Aerospace Force (controls strategic missile force), Qods Force (aka Quds Force; special operations), Cyber Electronic Command, Basij Paramilitary Forces (Popular Mobilization Army); Law Enforcement Forces (border and security troops, assigned to the armed forces in wartime) (2022)

note 1: the Artesh Navy operates Iran’s larger warships and operates in the Gulf of Oman, the Caspian Sea, and deep waters in the region and beyond; the IRGC Navy has responsibility for the closer-in Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz

note 2: the Basij is a volunteer paramilitary group under the IRGC with local organizations across the country, which sometimes acts as an auxiliary law enforcement unit

Military expenditures

2.3% of GDP (2021 est.)

2.1% of GDP (2020 est.)

2.5% of GDP (2019 est.) (approximately $22.8 billion)

3.4% of GDP (2018 est.) (approximately $29.1 billion)

3.4% of GDP (2017 est.) (approximately $31.2 billion)

country comparison to the world: 46

Military and security service personnel strengths

information varies; approximately 550-600,000 active armed forces personnel; approximately 400,000 Islamic Republic of Iran Regular Forces (350,000 Ground Forces; 18,000 Navy; 40,000 Air Force/Air Defense Forces); approximately 150-190,000 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (100-150,000 Ground Forces; 20,000 Navy; 15,000 Aerospace Force; 5-15,000 Qods Force); estimated 90,000 active Basij Paramilitary Forces (2022)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Iranian military's inventory includes a mix of domestically-produced and mostly older foreign equipment largely of Chinese, Russian, Soviet, and US origin (US equipment acquired prior to the Islamic Revolution in 1979); Iran has also received some military equipment from North Korea, including midget submarines and ballistic missiles; Iran has a defense industry with the capacity to develop, produce, support, and sustain air, land, missile, and naval weapons programs (2021)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for men 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 is 18-24 months, depending on the location of service (soldiers serving in places of high security risk and deprived areas serve shorter terms); women exempt from military service (2021)

note: as of 2019, approximately 80% of Artesh ground forces personnel were conscripts, while Navy and Air/Air Defense Force personnel were primarily volunteers; conscripts reportedly comprised more than 50% of the IRGC 

Military deployments

estimated 1-3,000 Syria (2022)

note: Iran has recruited, trained, and funded thousands of Syrian and foreign fighters to support the ASAD regime during the Syrian civil war

Military - note

the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was formed in May 1979 in the immediate aftermath of Shah Mohammad Reza PAHLAVI’s fall, as leftists, nationalists, and Islamists jockeyed for power; while the interim prime minister controlled the government and state institutions, such as the Army, followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah KHOMEINI organized counterweights, including the IRGC, to protect the Islamic revolution; the IRGC’s command structure bypassed the elected president and went directly to KHOMEINI; the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88) transformed the IRGC into more of a conventional fighting force with its own ground, air, naval, and special forces, plus control over Iran’s strategic missile and rocket forces; as of 2022, the IRGC was a highly institutionalized and parallel military force to Iran’s regular armed forces (Artesh); it was heavily involved in internal security and had significant influence in the political and economic spheres of Iranian society, as well as Iran’s foreign policy; its special operations forces, known as the Qods/Quds Force, specialized in foreign missions and has provided advice, funding, guidance, material support, training, and weapons to militants in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, as well as extremist groups, including HAMAS, Hizballah, Kata’ib Hizballah, and Palestine Islamic Jihad (see Appendix T for additional details on the IRGC and Qods Force); the Qods Force also conducts intelligence and reconnaissance operations 

the Supreme Council for National Security (SCNS) is the senior-most body for formulating Iran’s foreign and security policy; it is formally chaired by the president, who also appoints the SCNS secretary; its members include the speaker of the Majles, the head of the judiciary, the chief of the Armed Forces General Staff (chief of defense or CHOD), the commanders of the Artesh (regular forces) and IRGC, and the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, interior, and intelligence; the SCNS reports to the supreme leader; the supreme leader is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces

Maritime threats

the Maritime Administration of the US Department of Transportation has issued a Maritime Advisory (2022-003 Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Red Sea-Threats to US and International Shipping from Iran) effective 28 February 2022, which states in part that "heightened military activities and increased political tensions in this region continue to present risk to commercial shipping...there is a continued possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take actions against US and partner interests in the region;" Coalition Task Force (CTF) Sentinel has been established to provide escorts for commercial shipping transiting the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman


Terrorist group(s)

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)/Qods Force; Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS); Jaysh al Adl (Jundallah); Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK); al-Qa’ida

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Iran-Afghanistan: Iran protests Afghanistan's limiting flow of dammed Helmand River tributaries during drought; Afghan and Iranian commissioners have discussed boundary monument densification and resurvey

Iran-Azerbaijan-Kazakhstan-Russia: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia ratified a Caspian seabed delimitation treaty in 2018 based on equidistance, while Iran continues to insist on a one-fifth slice of the sea

Iran-Iraq: 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-UAE: Iran and UAE dispute Tunb Islands and Abu Musa Island, which are occupied by Iran; the dispute was rehashed at the September 2021 UN General Assembly meeting; Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corp opened an airport on Greater Tunb in February 2022

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 2.6 million undocumented Afghans, 780,000 Afghan refugee card holders, 20,000 Iraqi refugee card holders (2020)

stateless persons: 34 (mid-year 2021)

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Iran is a presumed source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor; Iranian and Afghan boys and girls are forced into prostitution domestically; Iranian women are subjected to sex trafficking in Iran, Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, and Europe; Azerbaijani women and children are also sexually exploited in Iran; Afghan migrants and refugees and Pakistani men and women are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Iran; NGO reports indicate that criminal organizations play a significant role in human trafficking in Iran

tier rating: Tier 3 — Iran does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore, Iran remained in Tier 3; the government continued a policy of recruiting and using child soldiers, government officials perpetrated sex trafficking of adults and children and continued trafficking both in Iran and overseas; the government continued to force or coerce children and adults to fight for Iranian-led militias operating in Syria and provided financial support to militias fighting in armed conflicts in the region using child soldiers; authorities failed to identify and protect trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; law enforcement treated trafficking victims as criminals, facing severe punishment or death for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit (2020)

Illicit drugs

significant transit and destination country for opiates and cannabis products mainly from Afghanistan; produces and consumes methamphetamine and traffics it to  international markets; one of the primary transshipment routes for Southwest Asian heroin to Europe