Islamic Republic of Iran

Country Profile

Population 80.28 million (2016)
Area 636,400 mi²
Head of State Supreme Leader- Ayatollah Khamenei
Head of Government President- Hassan Rouhani (2019) 
Capital Tehran
Year of Independence/Regime April 1979
Year of Current Constitution July 28th 1989
Languages Persian
GDP per Capita 5,415.21 USD
Human Development Index Ranking Index



Political Parties Reformists vs. Principalists
Geographic Distribution of Power Unitary



Iran in Recent News….

Zvi Bar’el. “Iran’s Floods Leaves Its Regime Drowning in Domestic Criticism” (April 19th, 2019)

CBS. “Iran slams U.S. sanctions on Revolutionary Guard as lawmakers chant “Death to America”” (April 9th, 2019)

Financial Tribune. “Central Bank of Iran allowed to Launch OMO” (April 17th, 2019)


Iranian Political Structure Explained


Patrick H. O’Neil, Karl Fields, Don Share Essentials of Comparative Politics with Cases (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2018)

“Explainer: Iran’s Complex Political System” Al-Jazeera (29 Feburary, 2012) 

“Guide: How Iran is Ruled” BBC News (9 June 2009) 

Gabriella Billini. “Media Guide: Iran’s Government Structure” (August 1st, 2017)


Iranian Political System

Salient History

    • Originally known as Persia, as their national and political origins date back to when people migrated from Central Asia
    • Persians created the Achaemenid Empire which stretched from modern day India across the Middle East
      • Destroyed by Alexander the Great in 334 B.C.E.
    • In the 7th century, Islam was brought to Persia by Arabs from the Middle East
    • The Persian population eventually converted to Islam however with major differences between Persian and Arab cultures
    • Under the Safavid Dynasty (1502-1736), Shiism was adopted as the country’s state religion
    • This introduced a major connection between Shiism and politics, and the Safavids elevated religious leaders into what are now known as ayatollahs
    • Qajar Dynasty (1794-1925) faced the challenge of confronting Western powers and maintaining their sovereignty
    • The monarchy lost significant power despite attempted reforms to modernize the state. As the government grew weaker, the monarchy lost support
    • This lead to the 1906 Constitutional Revolution, which is sort of similar to the country’s own “American Revolution” in which the monarchy’s power became limited and a constitution and legislature was created. This Revolution did not fully succeed.
    • The ongoing battle between monarchists (secularists) and constitutionalists (clergy) allowed for the U.K. and Russia to weaken sovereignty leading into World War II
    • In 1921 Reza Khan (now known as Reza Shah Pahlavi) seizes power and consolidates his power as the new shah, Reza Khan pursued serious Westernization and cultivated a national identity
    • Name of country was changed to Iran in 1935
    • Popularization of Ruhollah Khomeini in the 1970’s- an exiled cleric
    • 1978 a fire killed about 400 people that was thought to be connected to the shah’s secret police (SAVAK) and the shah declared martial law
    • February 1, 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran, and gained control of the government and wrote a new constitution to allow for a religious leader to have supreme political authority
  • Start of the Islamic Republic of Iran



Review Terms…


Past Questions 

Short Answers 

#4 (2017) Religious Minorities, reservations in the Majlis, Answers

#3 (2015) Guardian Council Selection, Answers

#5 (2012) Candidate Vetting, Answers

#4 (2008) Theocracy, Answers

Country Contexts 

#7 (2016) Compared to Mexico, independence of the legislature , Answers

#8 (2014) Compared to China, sources of authority for leaders , Answers