United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

The Book

Supreme Leader: Sadjadpour
Six Presidents: Bakhash
Parliament: Farhi

Assembly of Experts: Farhi
Judiciary: Ghaemi
Clergy: Khalaji
Iran's Islam: Cole
Iran's Democracy: Brumberg

Green Movement: Milani
Women: Esfandiari
Youth: Memarian/Nesvaderani
New Political Tools: Abdo


Revolutionary Guards: Nader
Basij Force: Alfoneh
Conventional MilitaryCordesman
Military Doctrine: Connell


Economy: Maloney
Oil Sector: Mohamedi

Oil & Gas Charts: Mohamedi
Subsidies: Nikou
The Bazaar: Harris


Policy Options 
Reading IranLaipson
Engaging IranDobbins
Military OptionZakheim



The Challenge of Iran:

Robin Wright



Headlines & Highlights

The Iran Primer: Power, Politics and U.S. Policy


Nuclear Controversy
Nuclear Program: Albright/Stricker
Nuclear Politics: Chubin
Ballistic Missiles: Elleman
The IAEA: Adler



U.S. SanctionsClawson
U.N. ResolutionsStarr
Financial SanctionsLevitt



U.S. Sanctions: Starr / Ighani

Rights SanctionsWright

U.N. Resolutions: Starr


Iran & the Region
Iraq: Eisenstadt
Afghanistan: Milani
The Gulf: Molavi
Turkey: Barkey
Israel: Simon
Palestinians: Brandenburg
Syria: Goodarzi
Lebanon: Hokayem
China: Park
Russia: Katz

European Union: Posch
Other Allies: Heydemann




U.S. - Iran
Carter Presidency: Sick
Reagan Presidency: Kemp
Bush I Presidency: Haass
Clinton Presidency: Riedel
Bush II Presidency: Hadley
Obama Presidency: Limbert




People, Places and Events
Power Structure: Boroujerdi / Rahimkhani
Political Elite: Boroujerdi / Rahimkhani
Political Timeline: Nikou
Diplomatic Timeline: Nikou
Military Timeline: Nikou
Nuclear Timeline: Nikou
Nuclear sites: Nikou


Information sources: Nikou
About the Authors

Iran Factbox


Land borders

  • Afghanistan - 585 miles

  • Armenia - 22 miles

  • Azerbaijan-Nakhchivan exclave - 112 miles

  • Azerbaijan - 270 miles

  • Iraq - 911 miles

  • Pakistan - 568 miles

  • Turkmenistan - 620 miles

  • Turkey - 312 miles


2013 population:

79.9 million


Ethnic divisions:

  • Persian 61 percent
  • Azeri 16 percent
  • Kurd 10 percent
  • Arab 2 percent
  • Lur 6 percent
  • Baloch 2 percent
  • Turkmen 2 percent
  • Other 1 percent


Religious divisions[1]:

  • Muslims 98 percent:
    • Shiite 89 percent
    • Sunni 9 percent
  • Other significant minorities-based on varying estimates:
    • Baha'i - 300,000-350,000
    • Jews - 20,000-30,000
    • Christians (mainly Assyrian and Armenian churches) - 300,000
    • Zoroastrians - 35,000 to 60,000


Bordering bodies of water:

  • Caspian Sea - 462 miles
  • Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman - 1,525 miles


[1] According to U.S. State Department's "International Religious Freedom Report 2006."

The Iran Primer

   “The Iran Primer: Power, Politics and U.S. Policy” is an unprecedented project by 50 of the world’s top scholars on Iran representing some 20 foreign policy think tanks, eight universities, and senior foreign policy officials from six U.S. administrations. The book has no single political perspective or agenda, as the authors approach the subjects with a wide range of views.


   They include scholars at the US Institute of Peace, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Council on Foreign Relations, Brookings Institution, Rand Corp, International Institute for Strategic Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Asia Society, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, American Enterprise Institute, the Institute for Science and International Security, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, New America Foundation, Stimson Center, Center for Naval Analyses, Nixon Center, The Century Foundation, International and Foreign Policy Institute (Berlin), the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and several universities, including Stanford, Michigan, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Syracuse, and the U.S. Naval Academy.


   Two of the authors are former U.N. weapons inspectors. And the national security adviser or top National Security official in charge of Iran from six presidencies also contributed chapters on what happened between the United States and Iran during that administration.


   The book is also a living website project, as the entire book is available free on the web. It will also be constantly updated. The goal is to provide information about the many complex sides of a country with which the United States has not had relations for more than three decades.

Rules for Republication

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