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Iran Introduction - 2024


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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 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-Iran relations became strained when a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and held embassy personnel hostage 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 since 1984. Iran continues to be subject to a range of international sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement in terrorism, weapons proliferation, human rights abuses, and concerns over the nature of its nuclear program. Iran received nuclear-related sanctions relief in exchange for its nuclear concessions under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action's (JCPOA) Implementation Day beginning in January 2016. However, the US re-imposed nuclear-related sanctions on Iran after it unilaterally terminated its participation in the JCPOA in May 2018. In October 2023, the EU and the UK also decided to maintain nuclear proliferation-related measures on Iran, as well as arms and missile embargoes, in direct response to Iran's non-compliance with its JCPOA commitments following the US decision to terminate its participation in the accord.

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 Guardians Council, and the security services reversed and blocked reform measures while increasing 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, which persisted until early 2011. 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 UNSC permanent members, plus Germany (P5+1) finalized the JCPOA under which Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for nuclear-related sanctions relief; however, the US reimposed nuclear-related sanctions in 2018 dealing a blow to RUHANI's legacy and the Iranian economy. In November 2019, Tehran's decision to increase the price of gasoline overnight sparked nationwide protests, which the regime violently suppressed within a week. Conservatives won the majority of seats in Iranian Majles elections in elections in February 2020 and hardline cleric Ebrahim RAISI - who had a decades-long career in Iran's judiciary - was elected president in June 2021, resulting in a hardline and conservative monopoly across the regime's elected and unelected institutions.

As president, RAISI has concentrated on deepening Iran's foreign relations with anti-US states - particularly China and Russia - to weather US sanctions and diplomatic pressure, while supporting negotiations to restore a nuclear deal that began in 2021. RAISI contended with nationwide protests that began in September 2022 and persisted for over three months following the death of a Kurdish Iranian woman, Mahsa AMINI, while she was in morality police custody. Young people and women led the protests and demands focused on regime change rather than reform within the system or the redressal of economic grievances.

NOTE: The information regarding Iran on this page is re-published from the 2024 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Iran 2024 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Iran 2024 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 04 May 24, Copyright © 2024 ITA all rights reserved.