Iran had the first successful Islamic revolution, overthrowing
the U.S.-backed shah and taking U.S. Embassy workers hostage in
1979. It fought a major war with Iraq from 1980-’88. The United
States says Iran sponsors state terrorism by backing the Hezbollah
suicide bombers in Israel. But a struggle between government
moderates and hard-liners has raised hopes of a thaw in relations
with the U.S. This Shiite Muslim-dominated country has come close to
war with the Sunni Muslim Taliban, whose severe rule has led to an
explosion of refugees and narcotics trafficking along their
Area: 636,000 square miles, a little bigger than Alaska.
Population: 65 million.
Ethnic groups: 51 percent Persian, 3 percent Arab, the
rest are other ethnicities.
Languages: Primarily Persian or Farsi, a cousin to the
most prevalent language in Afghanistan, Dari.