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Iran country brief

For the latest Australian Government travel advice for Iran, please visit the Smartraveller website.

Overview – bilateral relations

Australia has a long-standing bilateral relationship with Iran. We have maintained an uninterrupted diplomatic presence in Iran since our Embassy opened in Tehran in 1968. Iran has maintained a diplomatic presence in Australia since opening its Embassy in Canberra in 1971.

Australia's bilateral relationship with Iran includes a long‑running trade relationship. We continue to engage in dialogue on a range of important issues, including people smuggling, terrorism, regional issues and human rights.

Political overview

The 1979 Islamic revolution transformed Iran, abolishing the monarchy, and establishing an Islamic Republic. The political system now comprises both elected and unelected institutions. The Supreme Leader is Iran's highest political authority and is chosen by the Assembly of Experts, a body of 88 clerics (elected on a regional basis). The President, the unicameral Islamic Consultative Assembly (or Majlis) and municipal councils are elected every four years on the basis of universal suffrage. Electoral candidates are vetted by the Guardian Council, which consists of six clerics appointed by the Supreme Leader, and six legal figures, appointed by the Head of the Judiciary and approved by the Majlis.

The Supreme Leader is responsible for choosing the Head of the Judiciary, setting general state policy, declaring war and peace, commanding the armed forces (including appointment of commanders, control of intelligence and security agencies) and holds the authority to initiate changes to the constitution. Iran's second and current Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, assumed the role in 1989, succeeding the 'father' of the 1979 revolution, Ruhollah Khomeini.

Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iran’s President in June 2021.

The Majlis has the power to initiate bills but the Guardian Council must approve all bills passed by the Majlis as consistent with Islamic law and the Iranian Constitution.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (nuclear deal)

On 16 January 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) advised the UN Security Council that Iran had complied with the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which sought to ensure Iran's nuclear program was used exclusively for peaceful purposes. This brought about 'Implementation Day' of the JCPOA, the lifting of a number of UN, US and EU sanctions stipulated in the agreement, and the entry into effect of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 which endorsed the JCPOA.

On 8 May 2018, then US President, Donald Trump, announced that the US would cease participating in the JCPOA. The US subsequently re-imposed sanctions suspended under the agreement.

From 2019 and into 2021, Iran took steps to reduce its level of compliance with the JCPOA and cooperation with the IAEA.

While not a signatory to the JCPOA, Australia supports the objectives of the deal and its contribution to nuclear counter-proliferation and a rules-based international order.

Australia’s sanctions regime on Iran

Australia continues to implement certain sanctions in respect of Iran, pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) and Australia's autonomous sanctions regime.

Australians considering commercial or other dealings with Iran should familiarise themselves with the operation of UN Security Council sanctions, Australia's autonomous sanctions, the sanctions laws of other countries, and seek independent legal advice before making commercial decisions. For more information, please see the Iran sanctions regime page.

Human rights

The Australian Government remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Iran, including the use of the death penalty, in particular for juvenile offenders; violations of political and media freedoms; and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities.

The Government has repeatedly and strongly urged the Iranian authorities to respect the human rights of its citizens. Australia has expressed these concerns in multilateral fora, including the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council.

Please refer to the travel advice for Iran which advises that the security situation remains volatile and there is a high risk you could be arbitrarily detained or arrested.

Economic overview

Iran is a significant regional economy with a large population (estimated to be over 80 million). The economy is heavily dependent on hydrocarbon exports and dominated by the oil industry. As a result, economic growth has traditionally been strongly influenced by oil market developments. A goal of Iranian economic policy over the last 20 years or so has been diversification of the economy away from dependence on oil earnings. This effort is ongoing.

Large state-owned enterprises dominate key industry sectors, and organisations controlled by religious foundations also account for a significant share of GDP. The private sector is generally confined to small and medium enterprises. The IMF has recommended that prudent efforts at economic reform be renewed to improve economic performance. President Rouhani was elected on the promise of improving the economy, which suffered during the administration of previous President Ahmadinejad, due to a combination of financial mismanagement and international sanctions. The economic situation remains difficult.

The value of Australia's two-way goods and services trade with Iran was $319 million in the 2019-20 financial year. Traditionally, Iran has been one of Australia's leading wheat export destinations, and other primary exports include wool and meat.

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