Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and the shah 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. Iranian-US 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. During 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 between 1987 and 1988. Iran has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for its activities in Lebanon and elsewhere in the world and remains subject to US economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement. Following the election of the reformist Hojjat ol-Eslam Mohammad KHATAMI as president in 1997 and similarly a reformist Majles (parliament) in 2000, a campaign to foster political reform in response to popular dissatisfaction was initiated. The movement floundered as conservative politicians prevented reform measures from being enacted, increased repressive measures, and made electoral gains against reformers. 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 an ultra-conservative layman as president.
NOTE: The information regarding Iran on this page is re-published from the 2007 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Iran Introduction 2007 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Iran Introduction 2007 should be addressed to the CIA.
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This page was last modified 29-Sep-09
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