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Iran:
Geography

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Background
Definition
Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and the shah 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. 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 and UN economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement in terrorism and conventional weapons proliferation. Following the election of reformer Hojjat ol-Eslam Mohammad KHATAMI as president in 1997 and similarly a reformer Majles (parliament) 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. In December 2006 and March 2007, the international community passed resolutions 1737 and 1747 respectively after Iran failed to comply with UN demands to halt the enrichment of uranium or to agree to full IAEA oversight of its nuclear program. In October 2007, Iranian entities were also subject to US sanctions under EO 13382 designations for proliferation activities and EO 13224 designations for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.
Location
Definition
Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan
Geographic coordinates
Definition
32 00 N, 53 00 E
Map references
Definition
Middle East
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 1.648 million sq km
land: 1.636 million sq km
water: 12,000 sq km
Area - comparative
Definition
slightly larger than Alaska
Land boundaries
Definition
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
Coastline
Definition
2,440 km; note - Iran also borders the Caspian Sea (740 km)
Maritime claims
Definition
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: bilateral agreements or median lines in the Persian Gulf
continental shelf: natural prolongation
Climate
Definition
mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast
Terrain
Definition
rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
highest point: Kuh-e Damavand 5,671 m
Natural resources
Definition
petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 9.78%
permanent crops: 1.29%
other: 88.93% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
76,500 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
Definition
137.5 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Definition
total: 72.88 cu km/yr (7%/2%/91%)
per capita: 1,048 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
Definition
periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes
Environment - current issues
Definition
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
Definition
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
Definition
strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, which are vital maritime pathways for crude oil transport


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