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Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, country in southwestern Asia, located on the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf. One of the world's most mountainous countries, Iran contains Mount Damāvand, the highest peak in Asia west of the Himalayas. The country’s population, while ethnically and linguistically diverse, is almost entirely Muslim. For centuries, the region has been the center of the Shia branch of Islam). Iran ranks among the world’s leaders in its reserves of oil and natural gas. As is the case in other countries in the petroleum-rich Persian Gulf region, the export of oil has dominated Iran’s economy since the early 20th century.

In the 6th century bc the territory of present-day Iran was the center of the Persian Empire, the world’s preeminent power at that time. For more than 2,000 years, the region’s inhabitants have referred to it by the name Iran, derived from the Aryan tribes who settled the area long ago). Iran was a monarchy ruled by a shah, or king, from 1501 until 1979, when a yearlong popular revolution led by the Shia clergy culminated in the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of an Islamic republic.

 

Iran lies at the easternmost edge of the geographic and cultural region known as the Middle East. The country is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea, and Turkmenistan; on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; on the south by the Gulf of Oman, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Persian Gulf; and on the west by Iraq and Turkey. Iran’s capital and largest city is Tehrān, located in the northern part of the country.

Iran is the second largest country in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia. It extends over a total area of 1,648,000 sq km (636,300 sq mi). The country is roughly triangular in shape, with its longest side extending in a slightly outward arc for 2,500 km (1,600 mi) from the border with Turkey in the northwest to the border with Pakistan in the southeast. The third point of the triangle lies in the northeast, about halfway along Iran’s border with Turkmenistan. Iran’s greatest extent from north to south is 1,600 km (1,000 mi) and from east to west is 1,700 km (1,100 mi).

 

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