Iran , also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Its central location in Eurasia and proximity to the Strait of Hormuz give it significant geostrategic importance. Tehran is the capital and largest city, as well as the leading economic and cultural hub; it is also the most populous city in Western Asia, with more than 8.8 million residents, and up to 15 million including the metropolitan area. With 83 million inhabitants, Iran is the world’s 17th most populous country. Spanning 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world.
Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdoms in the fourth millennium BC. It was first unified by the Iranian Medes in the seventh century BC, and reached its territorial height in the sixth century BC, when Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Empire, which stretched from Eastern Europe to the Indus Valley, making it one of the largest empires in history. The empire fell to Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC and was divided into several Hellenistic states. An Iranian rebellion established the Parthian Empire in the third century BC, which was succeeded in the third century AD by the Sasanian Empire, a major world power for the next four centuries. In the 15th century, the native Safavids reestablished a unified Iranian state and national identity, with the country’s conversion to Shia Islam marking a turning point in Iranian and Muslim history.
Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, OIC, and OPEC.
Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, OIC, and OPEC. It is a major regional and middle power, and its large reserves of fossil fuels—including the world’s largest natural gas supply and the third largest proven oil reserves —exert considerable influence in international energy security and the world economy. The country’s rich cultural legacy is reflected in part by its 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the third largest number in Asia and 10th largest in the world. Historically a multi-ethnic country, Iran remains a pluralistic society comprising numerous ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups, the largest being Persians, Azeris, Kurds, Mazandaranis and Lurs.