The Islamic Republic of Iran is the second-most populated country in the Middle East, with a population just over 76 million in 2012. Iran had a gross domestic product of $400 billion in 2011, with an economy reliant on the hydrocarbon sector. Not only is Iran the second-largest producer of oil among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), it controls the third-largest oil reserve in the world. Iran also stores the second-largest natural gas reserve in the world. The economy is transforming into a predominantly market-based economy.

The ancient historical and cultural roots of Iran can be traced back many centuries through empires including the Elamites, Medes, Persian, and Parthian. A more current history of Iran is best understood in three phases, predominantly defined ...

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