Industry Spotlight: Mining

Industry Spotlight: Mining

By Ariane Gottlieb, Research Associate

A large state replete with natural resources, Iran is among the most mineral-rich countries in the world, holding approximately 7% of the Earth’s supply with 45 to 60 billion metric tons of 68 different types of minerals.  Despite its natural advantages, however, Iran has failed to make the most of its mining sector. Mining employs just 620,000 people in the country and accounts for 0.6% to 1% of GDP.  With 90% of Iran’s potential mines unsurveyed, some estimates put the industry’s potential worth at triple its current value. The deputy minister of Iran’s Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Trade, Mojtaba Khosrowtaj, has indicated that copper, lead, and rare earth elements could ultimately generate more revenue than the crude oil industry.

Read More

Media Guide: Sanctions Against Iran

Media Guide:  Sanctions Against Iran

By Research Fellow Gabriela Billini

Sanctions are a perennial subject in American political discussion about Iran as the US tries to curtail what it views as Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region. Over the years, many rounds of sanctions have been imposed on Iran, in varying forms.  Some have primarily targeted institutions and individuals related to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, others have either directly or indirectly affected ordinary Iranian citizens.

This Media Guide will present a brief overview of the history of sanctions on Iran and highlight the effects that American and international sanctions have had upon the broader Iranian economy and average Iranians.

Read More

Industry Spotlight: Transportation and Urban Services

Industry Spotlight: Transportation and Urban Services

By Ariane Gottlieb, Research Associate  

Given Iran’s geographic breadth and its sizable population, the task of maintaining and modernizing its public transportation system is immense. Cities in Iran are linked by 199,000 km of roads and 10,000 km of railroad. The country has over 300 airports.  Due to heavy traffic, the metro systems in all major cities are heavily utilized to avoid the congestion above. The Tehran metro, for example, is one of the busiest in the Middle East and estimated to service between two and four million people each day.
 
While impressive in its scope, Iran’s transportation system is in serious need of attention and improvement. The World Economic Forum’s 2015-2016 Global Competitiveness Report ranked Iran 76 out of 140 for overall infrastructure quality (other industrialized countries in the region received much higher ratings, such as Saudi Arabia at 31 and the United Arab Emirates at 2). 

Read More

Media Guide: IRGC and al-Quds Force

Media Guide: IRGC and al-Quds Force

By Research Fellow Gabriela Billini

Aspiring to grow its clout across the Persian Gulf and the broader Middle East, Iran has increasingly engaged its military in other countries in the region. From intervening in civil wars to fighting terrorism in foreign states, Iran’s security forces are playing a larger role in regional affairs and have thus emerged as a critical focus of the West.

The U.S. media typically covers Iran’s military involvement abroad as unfoundedly aggressive or destabilizing, without examining the broader role these organizations play within Iran itself, or Iran’s interests and goals for participation abroad. This media guide will focus on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the al-Quds force of the military with the aim to demystify these organizations, their role, as well the reasons and timing behind the government’s decisions to use them in foreign interventions.

Read More

Industry Spotlight: Textiles

Industry Spotlight: Textiles

By Marielle Coleman, Research Associate

Iran has a rich textile history. Archeologists can date the country’s textile production back at least 6,500 years. In those early years Persia produced tapestries and carpets for domestic and international markets, which were particularly renowned for their elaborate designs and colors. To this day, Persian carpets are still considered among the most beautiful and well-crafted in the world; many are also regarded as artistic works and showcased in museums and private collections.

Not only is the textile industry an important part of Iranian history and culture, it also plays a key role in the country’s economy. Iran is the 36th biggest exporter of textile products in the world. Today, the industry represents 13 percent of all industrial jobs in Iran, most of them being concentrated in carpet production.

Read More

Media Guide: Iran's Government Structure

Media Guide: Iran's Government Structure

By Research Fellow Gabriela Billini

Iran’s government structure can be difficult for foreigners to understand. In part, this is due to the intrinsic complexity of Iran’s system, which some argue is due to the combination of modern institutions (like the Majles and Assembly of Experts) with pre-modern ones (like the Supreme Leader).

While this dual nature of Iranian government has contributed to the confusion, a lack of media coverage in the West is also part of the problem. Western media has a mixed record with coverage of the Iranian government – at times covering the democratic process in Iran (as it did recently in the 2017 Presidential elections), but at others, portraying Iran as a dictatorship run by the Supreme Leader. This is unfortunate since understanding Iran’s government structure and process for decision making is crucial in order to interpret the government’s actions and policy positions. With this guide, we hope to provide some foundational information about each government body, its powers, the democratic forces that underlie its authority, and the extent of religious influence in each branch.

Read More

Industry Spotlight: Water Management

Industry Spotlight: Water Management

By Elliot Plaut, Research Associate

Like other countries in the region, Iran faces a severe water crisis due to climate change and poor water management. One of the most visible reminders of this ongoing problem is Lake Urmia. Located in the northwestern corner of Iran, Lake Urmia’s watershed serves an agricultural region with a population of 6.4 million people.  Previously one of the largest salt lakes in the world, Lake Urmia was also once a popular tourist destination. However, the last 20 years of environmental conditions and damming of tributary rivers for irrigation have shrunk Lake Urmia’s surface area by 70% and its water volume by 95%.

Read More

MYTH vs. FACT: Censorship in Iran

MYTH vs. FACT: Censorship in Iran

MYTH:  The Iranian government exercises strict control over the press and tightly censors the Internet and media, making communication with the outside world virtually nonexistent. This censorship makes it impossible for Iranians to publicly criticize the government or to obtain international news and perspectives on current events.

FACT:  In reality, this is only a partial understanding of access to information in Iran. While harsh policies and tactics used against journalists in the country cannot not be understated, Iranians have found many ways to circumvent state censorship, such as bypassing the Internet firewall or accessing international channels via illegal satellite dishes. A full understanding of media and censorship in Iran requires distinguishing government laws from the practices of average Iranians.

Read More

Industry Spotlight: Building & Renovation

Industry Spotlight: Building & Renovation

By Sarah Bryn Witmer, Research Associate

Claiming 21 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Iran’s courtyards and gardens, patterns, textures, and shapes are celebrated and emulated worldwide. In addition to its impressive and historic architecture, however, Iran is also home to a vibrant construction industry with a trend towards modernization. One prime example of a modern gem and model of technological achievement is the Sharifi-ha House in Tehran, designed by Tehran-based firm Nextoffice in 2013: a seven-story home with rooms that rotate and shift at the push of a button. While some Iranians bemoan this kind of change in the architectural landscape, others suggest that modern buildings are more suitable for everyday life and attracting tourists.  Even the modern Sharifi-ha House, however, reflects the staying power of traditional Persian architecture since the concept of rotating rooms was inspired by old Iranian mansions, which had both summer and winter living rooms.

Read More

Media Guide: Naval Incidents between the US and Iran

Media Guide: Naval Incidents between the US and Iran

By Research Fellow Gabriela Billini

Naval incidents between American and Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf have recently received increased media attention. Although such incidents have been occurring for some time, the new US administration and changing political environment in Iran have heightened their significance. In keeping with the goal of our Media Guide series to clarify and explain topics in US-Iran relations, we hope this guide will promote increased understanding of the issues at hand.

Read More

Media Guide: Iran's Ballistic Missile Testing

Media Guide: Iran's Ballistic Missile Testing

By Research Fellow Gabriela Billini

On January 29, 2017, the Islamic Republic of Iran conducted its first ballistic missile test since the beginning of the Trump administration. What followed was a throng of varied, often hyperbolic news reports, few of which contained basic information that would help their audience properly understand the news. In keeping with the goal of our new Media Guide series, this paper intends to explain and clarify the issues surrounding this news topic, for use by the media and news consumers. 

Read More

MYTH vs. FACT: Iranians & Western Culture

MYTH vs. FACT:  Iranians & Western Culture

MYTH: Iranians are isolated from the world and have limited access to Western products and culture. What they know about the West they don’t like, as evidenced by their chants of “Death to America.”

FACT: Despite years of sanctions from abroad and a government that censors much of the media and internet, Iranians actually have broad understanding of and access to Western culture and products. Daily life for young Iranians - particularly those in the major cities - would look quite familiar to most Westerners.

Read More

Industry Spotlight: Food & Beverage

Industry Spotlight: Food & Beverage

By Ariane Gottlieb, Research Associate  

Iran, with its population of nearly 80 million people and recent relief from sanctions, offers significant opportunities for growth, international investment and modernization in its already strong food and beverage industry. Currently, 90% of food and beverage sales are conducted through traditional small grocery outlets and local bakeries. In 2014, 96% of bakery sales were for staples like bread. But, in a country where 65% of the population is under the age of 35, tastes are changing and companies are modernizing and targeting younger consumers by rebranding or adding new products and flavors.  

Read More

Industry Spotlight: Technology Sector

Industry Spotlight: Technology Sector

By Sarah Bryn Witmer, Research Associate

There are many factors that have led to a thriving tech industry in Iran, including abundant resources, lifted sanctions, and a youthful, highly educated population.  Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the industry has also benefited in large part due to active support from the Iranian government. Over a decade ago in 2005, the Islamic Republic released a “20 Year National Vision” statement, known as Vision 2025, describing the state’s intentions to achieve “first place in the areas of economy, science, and technology in the Western South Asia region,” specifically in “high tech [software knowledge] production.”  

Read More

Industry Spotlight: Literature

Industry Spotlight: Literature

By Sarah Bryn Witmer, Research Associate

From ancient poetry to modern graphic novels, Iranian literature has been shaped over the millennia. Combining this extensive history with a national literacy rate of nearly 90%, literature remains important to the country's psyche and a great source of national pride.  

In addition to its cultural significance, Iran’s book industry also plays a role in the economy and in matters of public policy.  In 1992, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance commissioned the creation of the Iran Cultural Fairs Institute in order to establish book fairs across the country and around the world.  As part of this directive, in May 2017 Tehran will host its largest literature-related event of the year, the 30th annual Tehran International Book Fair (TIBF).

Read More

Industry Spotlight: Automobiles

Industry Spotlight: Automobiles

By Ariane Gottlieb, Research Associate  

After oil and gas, the automobile industry is Iran’s third largest, accounting for approximately 10% of the country’s GDP and employing about four percent of the country’s workforce.  Despite setbacks from sanctions, which saw Iran pull back as the number one automobile developer in the Middle East to second place behind Turkey, the auto industry has been growing.  The past decade has shown a six fold increase in production, fueled by both domestic and foreign demand.  Today, the industry produces around 1 million cars each year.

Read More

MYTH vs. FACT: Iranians & Terrorism

MYTH vs. FACT:  Iranians & Terrorism

MYTH: Iranians are likely to carry out terror attacks against the United States, and are properly included in the Trump administration’s travel ban.

FACT: Iranians are not likely to carry out terror attacks against the United States.  Indeed, this myth has no factual basis whatsoever.  More than any of our other Myth vs. Fact articles, this is an extremely serious charge and it requires an even more in-depth look into the factors that are contributing to this misperception.  We hope this article will be informative and widely shared.

Read More

Industry Spotlight: Construction

Industry Spotlight: Construction

By Sarah Bryn Witmer, Research Associate

Iran’s construction industry, currently valued at about $154 billion, is central to the country’s economy and promises steady growth. While the construction industry was in decline before international sanctions were lifted, it has made a quick turnaround: output value is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 6.34% through 2020.  Investment opportunities are also increasing as the country opens up to more international markets and new infrastructure is needed.

Read More

Industry Spotlight: Environment

Industry Spotlight: Environment

Iran has long had its share of environmental issues including air pollution, water management, and the effects of climate change. But in 2016, major developments in environmental policy in Iran helped boost the country’s “green” status. For instance, Iran passed the Clean Air Bill, imposing fines on excess air pollution, and became the 106th nation to ratify the Paris Agreement in early November 2016.  Additionally, the Iranian Department of Environment endorsed several successful environmental campaigns such as “Car-Free Tuesday” and a plan to protect the Persian Leopard.

Read More

Industry Spotlight: Tourism

Industry Spotlight: Tourism

Iran may not be high on most Americans' lists of top tourist destinations, but the tourism industry there has been doing quite well.  Home to a rich cultural and historical heritage, Iran contains architectural remnants that date back over 2000 years with 19 major archaeological sites having been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  After implementation of the JCPOA, the number of tourists visiting in Iran rapidly increased, with Iran currently generating some $8 billion from tourism.  The country expects that number to jump to $30 billion by 2025, with nearly 20 million tourists visiting annually and providing over 1.9 million Iranian jobs.

Read More