Basic information about the territory
- System of governance and political tendencies in the country
- Foreign policy of the country
The system of governance and political tendencies in the country
The official name of Iran is the Islamic Republic of Iran, in Persian “Jomhuri-je Islami-je Iran”.
The Iranian political system is quite complicated, consisting of a number of interconnected institutions. Iranians go to the polls almost every year, electing the president, members of parliament, members of the Assembly of Experts and local councils. Candidates for political positions pass through a very fine sieve. They are assessed by the Board of Supervisors. Integrity and loyalty to the regime are required, while those who have already held a political position in the past, but did not prove themselves from the regime’s point of view, are often prevented from running. Since 2009, women have been able to run for all political positions, but in the case of the highest political positions (e.g. president), their candidacy is still rejected for various reasons. Check equzhou to learn more about Iran political system.
The highest authority is the so-called supreme leader, in Persian “rahbar” (leader) and “valí-je fakih” (spiritual ruler). He practically decides everything, as he controls all key areas of the Iranian political system. He is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces (including the Revolutionary Guards). The Supreme Leader’s government is controlled and corrected to some extent by the 86-member Assembly of Experts. This also decides the filling of the post of supreme leader. The government is headed by a directly elected president. He is responsible for the functioning of the state and the implementation of laws approved by the parliament. The position of prime minister was abolished in 1989. The Iranian parliament, “Majles” in Persian, is unicameral and consists of 290 seats. The compliance of laws with the constitution and Islamic law and presidential candidates is checked by the Guardian Council, which consists of 12 members, half of whom are clerics and the other half experts in Shia law. The most important political issues are decided by the Supreme National Security Council, whose members are the president, the speaker of the parliament, the head of justice, military officials, key ministers and heads of the security services. Key decisions regarding the economy are made by the Supreme Council of Economic Coordination, whose meetings are often attended by the Supreme Leader himself.
Current occupation of key positions:
- Supreme Leader: Ali Khamenei (since 1989)
- president: Ebrahim Raísí (from 2021)
- Speaker of Parliament: Mohammad Báqer Qalíbáf
- First Vice President: Mohammad Mochber
- Vice President for Economic Affairs: Mohsen Rezá’í Mírqá’ed
- Vice President and Head of the Nuclear Energy Organization of Iran: Mohammad Eslami
- Vice President for the Environment: Ali Saládžeqeh
- Minister of Foreign Affairs: Hossein Amír Abdollahián
- Minister of Health: Bahram Ejnollahí
- Minister of Agriculture: Javad Sadatí Nežad
- Minister for Science and Research: Mohammad Ali Zolfígol
- Minister of Industry, Trade and Mining: Rezá Fátemí Amín
- Minister of Transport: Rostam Qásemi
- Minister of Oil: Javad Ouji
- Minister of Energy: Akbar Mehrábíán
Foreign policy of the country
The foreign policy of the current government of E. Raísí is mainly focused on deepening relations with Russia, China and neighboring countries. In March 2021, Iran concluded a 25-year Strategic Partnership Agreement with China, within the framework of which China should invest USD 400 billion in the Iranian economy over the next quarter of a century in exchange for, among other things, stable and discounted oil supplies. China plans to finance, in particular, projects in the fields of oil and natural gas extraction, transport, reconstruction and improvement of infrastructure. One of the most important goals is connecting Iran to the New Silk Road. At the beginning of 2022, the strategic partnership with Russia was extended for another 20 years. On the basis of the new agreement, Russian-Iranian cooperation is to focus primarily on energy, transport and banking. For example, Iran is interested in joining the Russian MIR payment system. Check recipesinthebox for Iran defense and foreign policy.
Iran is reserved and mistrustful of the West, based on its negative experience with the functioning of the JCPOA. Iran’s traditionally strong trade ties with Europe have weakened considerably as a result of EU and US sanctions. The payment barter instrument INSTEX failed to be put into operation, mainly due to complications and delays on the part of Iran, as well as the lack of interest of European companies. Iran feels cheated by Europe, because it expected that European states would stand up against US national sanctions and find an effective way to keep alive at least the part of mutual trade that is not affected by EU sanctions.
In the Middle East region, the most important trade partners for Iran are Iraq, the UAE and Turkey, traditional allies are also Syria and Lebanon, and Oman and Qatar also play an important role on the political level. Raisi’s government is intensively trying to straighten relations with Saudi Arabia, but mutual talks developed promisingly only in 2021, after which they were suspended by the Saudis. The reason was, among other things, Iran’s inability or unwillingness to end the war in Yemen.
In the region of Central Asia, Iran’s traditional ally is Armenia, but Azerbaijan is more interesting commercially, with which the current government is trying to significantly increase cooperation. In particular, Iran is trying to complete road and rail connections with Azerbaijan, e.g. by completing the route to Nakhchivan, it would secure a connection to the east-west corridor of the New Silk Road. However, cooperation with Azerbaijan is also important for Iran because of the Caspian Sea (transport, but also extraction of raw materials) and security. In this direction, Iran is primarily concerned about the increase of Turkish and Israeli influence in Azerbaijan.
The population of Iran at the beginning of April 2022 reached 85,871,730. The year-on-year population increase is 1.1%, according to some statistics even only 0.6%. The Iranian population is generally aging, seniors currently make up 10.5% of the population, but in 2050, according to current projections, it will be 32%. There are an average of children per woman, less than 1 child per couple. Through a series of various restrictive measures and incentives, the government is intensively trying to increase the birth rate, but in addition to favorable loans for young families, these efforts also take the form of restricting access to prenatal examinations, contraception, or restricting the right to abortion.
The population density in Iran is 52 people per km 2, 76.3% of the population lived in cities in 2021.
Iran is a multi-ethnic state, inhabited by three basic ethnic groups:
- Iranian (Indo-European): Persians, Kurds, Baluchis, Armenians, Lurs, etc.;
- Turkic: Azeris, Turkmens, Kaskhaians;
- Semitic: Arabs, Assyrians.
Data on the exact ethnic composition of the population is not available, so one can work with mere estimates, according to which Persians (54%) make up more than half of Iran’s population, the next most numerous groups are Azeris (16%) and Kurds (10%).
The state religion is the Shia Islam of the Twelve Imams. Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism are also officially recognized religions. According to official statistics, 89% of Iran’s population is Shia, and 10% of the population is Sunni Islam. However, recent researches speak of an increase in atheism in Iran, as well as the inclination of the young population in particular to Zoroastrianism (the original, pre-Islamic state religion) and other fringe religions, incl. mystical branches of Islam (e.g. Sufism). According to these surveys, Muslims actually make up only 40% of the population, with 32% of Iranians being Shia and 5% being Sunni. Over 20% of Iranians do not identify with any religion, and another nearly 9% openly admit to being atheists. Zoroastrians make up less than 8%, Christians only 1.5% and Jews 0.1% of the population.