229 Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Russia and the Turkic lands. The international strategic importance of Iran is often taken for granted, but its long history of empire and cultural domination of its peripheries underline the country’s powerful position in international trade, in setting the political balance of Western Asia, and in influencing ideological opinion throughout a wide area beyond its boundaries. With a 1600 mile frontier with the states of the former Soviet Union in the north, and fronting the important Strait of Hormuz to the south, Iran is a nation of especial geo-strategic significance. In addition, Iran has about 10 per cent of the world’s proven reserves of petroleum (see Chapter 1, Table 1.6), and for many years has been one of the world’s largest oil exporters (Ali and Amirshahi 2002; Javidan and Dastmalchian 2003). It also possesses the world’s second largest reserves of natural gas. The population of approximately 75 million people is comparable only to Egypt and Turkey in the region. In these circumstances, Iran is articulating its strength on the regional and world scenes, as an economy of weight and a key supplier of crude oil and natural gas to the world market. Clearly there is a linkage between the current and likely future role of Iran as an exporter of hydrocarbons and the degree of importance attaching to the country’s strategic rating. At the same time, the oil industry provides Iran with very large components of its budget, foreign exchange and national income....
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