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Introduction: 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 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 86-member body of clerics. 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....

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Economic Overview: Iran is a significant regional economy with a large and fast-growing population (estimated at around 74 million people) and some of the world's largest oil and gas reserves.

The economy is heavily dependent on hydrocarbon exports and dominated by the oil industry, economic growth is strongly influenced by oil market developments. Around 80 per cent of total export earnings are generated from oil revenues. A goal of Iranian economic policy over the last 20 years or so has been diversification of the economy away from dependence on oil earnings.

Large state-owned enterprises dominate key industry ...

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History: The ancient nation of Iran, historically known as Persia, has traditionally been a major power in the region. Despite invasions by Arabs, Seljuk Turks, and Mongols, Iran has always reasserted its national identity and taken pride in its unique cultural and political heritage.

Archeological findings indicate that human activity in Iran dates back to the middle Paleolithic era, ...

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International Relations: Diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Iran have been cut off and restored several times since the 1979 Revolution. On 29 November 2011, with the acquiescence of the Iranian authorities, student Basij militia entered the British Embassy in Tehran and a residential compound in the north of the city and caused extensive damage. The Embassy is currently closed and British diplomats have been withdrawn. Iranian diplomats in the UK were ordered to leave London on 2 December 2011. Diplomatic relations have not been severed and the UK is currently exploring other ways of ensuring that UK interests in Iran are protected.

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The Islamic revolution in 1979 brought a sudden end to the rule of the Pahlavi dynasty, which for fifty years had been identified with the attempt to modernize and Westernize Iran. The Revolution replaced the monarchy with an Islamic republic and a secular state with a quasi-theocracy. It brought new elites to power, altered the pattern of Iran's foreign relations, and led to the transfer of ...

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Area Handbook Series
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