Overview: Iran and Its Neighbors

Map of Iran and its Neighbors

Iran is a Persian state in a region dominated by Arabs and a Shia nation surrounded largely by Sunni states. Lindsay Mangum, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lindsay Mangum, NPR
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has taken a strong stance on a variety of issues. Marcel Mettelsiefen/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Marcel Mettelsiefen/Getty Images

Iran's leaders, both before and after the Islamic Revolution, have seen their nation as the key regional power in the Middle East.

And with its abundant oil, advantageous geography, and dynamic population, Iran would seem a natural to emerge in such a position. But since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has been consistently unable to fulfill this ambition, hampered as it has been by bad economic policies, internal conflicts, and Shia revolutionary fervor that threatened its mostly Sunni neighbors.

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq by the United States have enhanced Iran's power in the region, perhaps more than any policies Iran itself has pursued in recent years. But Iran continues to limp into the future rather than drive toward its goals.

In this series, NPR examines Iran and its relationships with its neighbors: Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel and Iraq. We also take a broader look Iranian policy and actions in the Middle East from a United States perspective.

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