Iran is an Islamic republic, in effect a
religious dictatorship. There is a people-elected
parliament and a president-elect, but the religious
scholars have the utmost power, especially the most
conservative circles. The opposition is brutally
silenced with imprisonment, torture, impunity or
execution. A long-standing conflict with the outside
world was settled since the country's suspected attempt
to construct nuclear weapons was interrupted, but
conflicts with the United States have come to life again
after President Trump decided to leave the agreement.
Brief profiles of Iran, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Geography and climate
Iran is about three and a half times the size
of Sweden. High mountains and large desert areas make
parts of the country difficult to access. Central Iran
consists of a high plateau and there are large salt
marshes and stone deserts. The plateau is surrounded by
mountain ranges. Earthquakes often occur.
To the north dominates a vast salt desert, Dasht-e
Kavir, and in the south the rock and sand desert Dahst-e
Lut , which is one of the world's
driest and hottest places.
The high plateau in central Iran is surrounded by
mountain ranges. The largest is Zagros, which extends
from the country's northwest corner to the southeast
along the entire coast towards the Persian Gulf. Zagros
has peaks over 4,000 meters. The narrower but equally
high Elburz chain begins in the same corner but follows
the Caspian Sea coast to turn northeast into the Kopet
Dag Mountains, which form a border with Turkmenistan.
The country's highest mountain, the dormant volcano
Damavand (Demavend) northeast of Tehran, reaches over
Earthquakes often occur, including earthquakes of
great magnitude. At an earthquake in the northwest in
1990, about 40,000 people were killed and half a million
became homeless. Over 26,000 died when a powerful
earthquake in 2003 devastated the city of Bam in
Iran has several saline lakes that lack outflows.
Largest is Lake Urmia at the top of the northwest. The
Caspian Sea is also such a lake.
On the island of Qeshm in the south, in the Strait of
Hormuz, there is an impressive salt cave with strange
formations. The Namakdan Cave is believed to be one of
the deepest salt caves in the world.
The climate varies between extreme heat and extreme
cold. In the summers it can get up to 50 degrees inland.
In the winters there will be down to 20 minus degrees in
the mountain regions.
Dry climates prevail in most of the country, with
less than 250 millimeters of rain and snow a year. The
rainfall comes mainly during the winter season. Just
along the north-western border areas and at the Caspian
Sea, rainfall is more abundant - up to 2,000 mm per
Strong winds are common. Eastern Iran, in particular,
is plagued by the "120-day wind" summers, which can
reach speeds of 45 meters per second.
1 648 000 km2 (2018)
Swedish + 2.5 hours
Adjacent country (s)
Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan,
Capital with number of inhabitants
Tehran 8,700,000 (census 2016)
Other major cities
Mashad 3 000 000, Isfahan 2 100 000, karaj 1 900 000,
Shiraz 1 700 000, Tabriz 1 600 000, Qom 1 200 000, Ahwaz
1 200 000 (Census 2016)
Damavand (5671 m asl)
Karun, Arvand Rud (Shatt-al-Arab)
Mass protests are growing in strength
When the mass demonstrations have been going on for three days, the regime is
blocking access to the Internet and social media in Iran. The protesters
communicate via these channels. President Rouhani is speaking for the first time
about the demonstrations. He acknowledges people's financial hardship and says
there will be "more room for criticism". Rouhani urges to calm down and abstain
from violence. The demonstrations are now described as the largest since the
2009 presidential election, when at least 30 people were killed when protests
against the election results were fought down with violence. An estimated few
hundred or a few thousand people participate in the protests. Police respond
with tear gas and water cannons. Hundreds of people have been arrested and
several have been killed in the violence.
Protests in Mashhad are spreading
Street protests erupt in the city of Mashhad against economic everyday
problems such as high prices of fuel and food, as well as high unemployment and
corruption. The protests will soon spread through the internet and social media
to other parts of the country and gradually gain more regime-critical elements.
Deaths are reported as well as many arrests.
KI researchers in TV
Iranian TV broadcasts what is described as a confession by Ahmadreza Djalali,
a researcher at the Karolinska Institute and sentenced to charges of espionage
on behalf of Israel. This kind of confession has appeared before in Iranian
television. According to relatives, he has been pressured into a false
confession. Iran's Supreme Court has confirmed the death sentence.
Iran is designated for robots
US ambassador to the United States Nikki Haley presents robotic remains as
evidence that Iran has delivered weapons to Yemeni rebels, not least a robot
fired against Riyadh in Saudi Arabia on November 4. UN expertise has previously
estimated that the robots may be of Iranian origin. Tehran rejects the
Prosecutors get jail
Former Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi is sentenced to two years in
prison (not five years as in lower court) for an incident when an activist lost
his life in detention following protests against the re-election of former
president Ahmadinejad. Two guardians have avoided the death penalty following
consultations with the victim's relatives, who have shown greater interest in
demanding higher-level responsibility. Mortazavi was shunned by the
reform-minded, among other things, because he had arrested activists and stopped
publishing newspapers. Several activists lost their lives when he was head of
Promises for measures against construction fraud
Land grief prevails and President Rohani has visited the disaster area. The
quake is believed to have claimed about 500 lives and up to 8,000 injured have
been reported. Iran has a well-equipped earthquake rescue device, but foreign
media are not allowed to follow the work closely. It circulates pictures where
some houses collapse while neighboring houses are intact. A representative of
the Revolutionary Guard says that modern buildings have done the best, but
speculation about building cheats is directed at the Mehr project, a
million-dollar program for housing for the less-favored, implemented during
President Ahmadinejad's time. President Rohani promises action against those
Severe earthquake in the northwest
An earthquake in the border regions against Iraq is measured at magnitude
7.3. Already during the night after the quake, hundreds of deaths have been
counted, most in Iran. Damaged buildings and the risk of aftershocks cause
people to sleep outdoors.
IAEA: Iran complies with agreement
Iran fulfills its commitments under the Nuclear Energy Agreement of 2015,
declares the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in talks with
the US ambassador. (See October 13.)
Dispute between great powers
Rebels in Yemen send a robot to Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh. It triggers
fierce exchange of words between the region's great powers Iran and Saudi Arabia
and creates concern for extended war. Both countries have interests in the Yemen
conflict. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of providing Yemenites with weapons and
considers itself hit by a war operation for which Iran is responsible. The
Iranian government criticizes the Saudis for bombing Yemen's civilians.
Putin on a visit
Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Tehran for a state visit, most
recently in 2015. With President Hassan Rohani, he is discussing Syria, where
both countries support Bashar al-Assad's regime and, in parallel with UN
efforts, are trying to implement its own peace initiative. They also discuss
Iran's disputed nuclear program and bilateral issues.
"Israeli spy" sentenced to death
Researcher Ahmadreza Djalali, who has a permanent residence permit in Sweden,
is sentenced to death for handing over information to Israel that allowed
Israeli agents to murder at least four Iranian nuclear technologies between 2010
and 2012. According to Iranian prosecutors, Djalali should have received money
and help with to obtain a residence permit in Sweden for helping the Israeli
security service Mossad. Djalali has done research at the Karolinska Institutet
where he earned his doctorate in emergency medicine in 2012.
The EU appeals to the US not to revoke the Iran agreement
EU Foreign Ministers reiterate their support for the international agreement
on Iran's nuclear program and warn the US to create a situation that could lead
to a military confrontation with Iran. Foreign Minister Mogherini will travel to
Washington to discuss the matter with the US government.
US on the way out of the nuclear agreement
Iran's agreement with the world's major powers over its nuclear program is
cracking down when US President Trump refuses to "certify" it, that is, to
confirm to the US Congress that Iran is following the agreement's provisions.
Trump believes that Iran does not live up to the "spirit of the agreement" and
suggests, without providing any evidence, that Iran may have a secret nuclear
cooperation with North Korea. He leaves it to Congress to decide within 60 days
whether the United States will reintroduce sanctions against Iran that were
suspended when the agreement was signed. If that happens, the US will break the
agreement, which means that it will in effect cease to exist and that Iran
considers itself entitled to resume attempts to manufacture nuclear weapons. All
other parties behind the agreement - Russia, China, EU, UK, France and Germany
and the IAEA - consider that Iran is following the rules. Iran's Foreign
Minister Javad Zarif claims that Trump's speech in itself constitutes a breach
of the agreement, and President Rohani says that Iran reserves the right to
leave the agreement if it can no longer be considered to promote the country's
interests. According to Rohani, Trump's speech is filled with "insults and false
Disagreement between the IAEA and Trump over Iran
While Yukiya Amano, the head of the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA), once again reaffirms that Iran respects its commitments under the 2015
international agreement on the country's nuclear research program, US President
Donald Trump is adamant that Iran does not live up to the "spirit" of the
agreement. Trump is expected to one day announce that he is "decertifying" the
agreement, which could be interpreted as he no longer believes it is in the US
interest to respect it. This, in turn, could mean that the United States
unilaterally imposes new sanctions on Iran. It is also thought likely that Trump
will demand that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard be classified as a terrorist
Iran defies US with new medium-range robot
Iran announces that it has successfully tested a new medium-range robot with
a range of 200 miles. The shooting took place the days after Iran was involved
in a heated exchange of words with US President Donald Trump in the UN Security
Council. Trump insists that the international agreement on Iran's nuclear
research program is a disaster and the worst the US has ever signed. In his
speech at the UN, Trump describes Iran as a "rogue state whose main export goods
are violence, bloodshed and chaos". Iran's Defense Minister Amir Hatami comments
on the shooting that the country will continue to strengthen its defense "as
long as some speak the language of the threat".
Multibillion loan from South Korean bank
The Iranian central bank is granted a loan of eight billion euros, just over
SEK 64 billion, from the South Korean bank Eximbank. It is the largest loan to
the Iranian state since the international agreement on the country's nuclear
energy program was signed in 2015, which re-entered the country into the
international financial market. The loan will fund South Korean companies'
development projects in Iran.
Opposition leader to hospital
Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, who has been in house arrest for six years,
is taken to hospital after starting a hunger strike, his family says. Karroubi
is 79 years old and is said to have problems with high blood pressure. He hunger
strikes for the demand for a public trial. He also requires the security service
to remove the surveillance cameras and personnel placed in his residence. He
interrupts the hunger strike after a day after receiving the promise that the
security agents should leave the home.
Conservative leader for important institution
Iran's highest leader Ayatollah Khamenei appoints Conservative Ayatollah
Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as chairman of the Medal Council advisory body.
Sharoudi, who was previously head of the judiciary, is among the most
hard-witted conservative wing, which is now strengthening its grip on the
country, despite the more reform-friendly forces having stronger support in
public opinion. One surprise is that former President Ahmadinejad gets a seat on
the Medlar Council. He had been considered to have lost influence in recent
Minor drug crime penalty
Parliament adopts a law that greatly raises the threshold for when the death
penalty can be imposed for drug offenses; Since the law is also to apply
retroactively, the sentence for several thousand death sentences can be
converted to a maximum of 30 years in prison. The law must be approved by the
conservative Guardian Council in order to take effect.
Increased funding for the robot program
Parliament approves an additional grant of the equivalent of just over SEK 4
billion for the Iranian robot program and the operations of the Revolutionary
Guard abroad. The decision is a reaction to the new sanctions introduced by the
United States. Iran believes US sanctions are in violation of the 2015
international agreement restricting Iran's nuclear program.
Rohani's new government receives criticism
President Rohani, who has just assumed his second term, presents a
ministerial list without a single woman. Admittedly, he appoints two female vice
presidents, but that does not silence criticism of the entirely male government.
The ministers also have no representatives of ethnic minorities, and the average
age is higher than in the previous government. The government must be approved
by Parliament before it can take office.
New US sanctions
Both chambers of the US Congress are adopting new sanctions against the
Iranian Revolutionary Guard for its continued work on developing robotic
systems. Shortly after the Senate's decision, Iran announces that the country
successfully test-fired a rocket capable of firing a 250-kilo-heavy satellite up
to 50 miles above the earth. The US immediately condemns the trial as a
violation of a UN resolution banning Iran from developing ballistic robots.
Increased Iraq-Iran military cooperation
Iran and Iraq sign an agreement to increase their military cooperation and
the fight against "terrorism and extremism". The agreement is signed by the
country's defense ministers and also covers border protection, logistics and
New US sanctions
US President Donald Trump, who threatened to tear up the Iranian nuclear
program agreement, admits that Iran is living up to its commitments but claims
the country does not live up to the agreement spirit. Therefore, the US faces
new sanctions against Iran targeting 18 people or companies whose assets in the
US are blocked. Iran's parliament is responding by starting a swift debate on a
law on increased funding for the country's robotic program and the Revolutionary
Guard, each with the equivalent of $ 260 million. President Rohani says that
Iran is faithful to the international agreement but that it will provide "an
appropriate response" to new US combat measures. He argues that the new US
sanctions violate both the spirit of the agreement and its letter.
New US sanctions underway
The US House of Representatives adopts new sanctions on Iran, which are
targeted at people involved in Iran's robot development program and against
members of the Revolutionary Guard. Certain parts of the arms embargo prevailing
are strengthened. The bill now goes on for consideration in the Senate before it
First IS attacks in Iran
The Sunni extremist terrorist movement Islamic State (IS) claims to be behind
two armed attacks targeting the Iranian parliament and the mausoleum over former
Ayatollah Khomeini leader. Twelve people are killed and dozens injured in IS's
first attack in Shiite-dominated Iran. At about the same time, three, four men
enter the Parliament and the area around the mausoleum, where they open fire and
in a few cases trigger explosive charges hidden on the body.
Grand victory for Tehran reformists
All 21 seats in the Tehran City Council go to reform advocates in the
elections held at the same time as the presidential election. This means that
the Conservatives lose power in the capital after 14 years.
Grand victory for Rohani
Hassan Rohani wins by a large margin and is re-elected as president with
about 57 percent of the vote against just over 38 percent for the main
competitor Ebrahim Raisi. The high turnout of about 73 percent is considered to
have benefited Rohani. Especially in the big cities, millions of people seem to
have voted for the incumbent president to prevent hard-fought clergy favorite
Raisi from winning. During his years as president, Rohani has been criticized
for failing to improve respect for human rights or to strengthen the economy for
the broad masses, but he has received respect for having at least partially
normalized Iran's relationship with the western world.
Great interest in presidential elections
Participation seems high when the Iranian people elect a president. A high
turnout has been deemed to benefit incumbent President Rohani, as his
conservative main opponent Raisi is believed to have the most devoted
supporters. Many voters have said in advance that they would rather vote for
Raisi than for Rohani. Raisi goes to the election to support the poor, who did
not get better under Rohani, and to hold a tougher tone against the Western
world, while Rohani talked about a choice between increased personal freedom and
conservative extremism. Rohani's main triumph is the nuclear agreement with the
outside world, but he has been criticized for not strengthening the country's
economy as expected.
The vice president resigns from the election
Reform-oriented First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri withdraws his candidacy
in the presidential election and calls on voters to vote for incumbent President
Rohani. Jahangiri's candidacy is believed to have been purely tactical, so that
he could be a support to Rohani during the election campaign.
Conservative candidate jumps off
15th of May
Four days before the presidential election, Tehran Mayor Bagher Ghalibaf
announces that he will withdraw his candidacy. He urges his supporters to vote
for Ebrahim Raisi, who is the only remaining standout conservative candidate.
Ahmadinejad is not allowed to stand
The Guardian Council rejects former President Ahmadinejad as a candidate in
the upcoming elections. Six candidates are approved by the Guardian Council,
among them the incumbent President Rohani. Her toughest opponent is believed to
be the 56-year-old former judge and imam Ebrahim Raisi. He leads a powerful
religious foundation and a number of companies in the city of Mashhad and is
considered to be close to the highest leader Khamenei. Tehran Mayor Mohammad
Bagher Ghalibaf, who came second in the 2013 elections, may also run for office.
Rohani is seeking re-election
As expected, President Rohani will register as a candidate in the May 19
election. He hopes to be re-elected for a new term. He has won international
respect for agreeing to shut down the Iranian nuclear program, but there is
disappointment among his own people that unemployment remains high, that foreign
investment has largely failed and that he has failed to mitigate social pressure
from the conservative forces or free political prisoners. In total, more than
1,600 people have registered when the registration period expires, but almost
all will be sorted out by the Guardian Council (see Political system).
Ex-president wants to come back
Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registers as a candidate in the May
presidential election. He signs up despite the fact that the senior leader
Ayatollah Khamenei in 2016 asked him not to stand and he then said he would
accept it. "But it was a council, not a ban," said Ahmadinejad, whose eight
years as president were characterized by economic problems and poor relations
with the western world.
Iranian money remains blocked
A court in Luxembourg denies an Iranian request to recover $ 1.6 billion that
was blocked at the request of the United States. The money has been frozen since
a judge in the US in 2012 ordered Iran to pay damages to the victims of the
attacks of 11 September 2001. According to the judge, Iran is jointly
responsible for the attacks for allowing members of al-Qaeda to travel through
the country. The Iranian central bank says it will appeal the decision.
New US sanctions
US President Trump orders financial sanctions to be imposed on a number of
Iranian people and companies or government as punishment for the latest robotic
test and for Iran's support for the Shiite militia in Yemen
American threat after robot test
After Iran announced that it was carrying out a ballistic robot test shoot,
which is technically considered to be equipped with a nuclear charge, US new
president Trump says Iran "should be grateful" for the international nuclear
agreement and suggests he is preparing for reprisals.
US sanctions are being extended
US outgoing President Obama extends US sanctions against Iran by one year to
March 15, 2018. The sanctions apply to Iranian human rights violations and
support to terrorist organizations. The sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program
were abolished in 2015.
Former President Rafsanjani dies
Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani dies at the age of 82. His passing
is considered a hardship for the reform-minded and moderately conservative
forces, whose leading representative he has been for many years. Rafsanjani was
one of the leaders of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and was the Speaker of
Parliament until 1989, after which he was President for two terms until 1997. He
was also a member of the important Expert Assembly, which elected the country's
highest leader, and since 1990, chairman of the Suitability Council.. Although
he belonged to the conservative Islamic Republic's inner circle, he was regarded
as a pragmatic who worked for economic liberalization and better relations with
the western world.