(Persia Digest) – US News writes that the world’s most powerful countries also are the ones that consistently dominate news headlines, preoccupy policymakers and shape global economic patterns. Their foreign policies and military budgets are tracked religiously. When they make a pledge, at least some in the international community trust they will keep it.
The 2018 Best Countries rankings, formed in partnership with global marketing communications company Y&R's brand strategy firm, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, are based on a survey that asked more than 21,000 people from four regions to associate 80 countries with specific attributes. 
The Power subranking is based on an equally weighted average of scores from five country attributes that related to a country's power: a leader, economically influential, politically influential, strong international alliances and strong military alliances. The Power subranking score had a 7 percent weight in the overall Best Countries ranking. There was no change this year in the top five countries seen as being the most powerful. The United States, which is perceived to be the most powerful country, has the world’s largest economy and biggest military budget, spending over $600 billion on military hardware and personnel in 2016. The country is a leader in the so-called War on Terror, is by far the largest contributor to NATO and cements alliances by giving out billions of dollars in military aid to nations worldwide. The U.S. spends slightly more than $30 billion in development assistance in 2016 – the most of any country in terms of dollars – but a very small fraction of gross domestic product.
Russia and China, the next two countries perceived to be the most powerful, are among the world’s top four military spenders. In fact, the gap between the U.S. and Russia for the top spot in power narrowed from 2017 as the two countries had nearly identical scores from respondents. Following the top three are Germany, U.K., France and Japan – countries that have large economies and give out high numbers of international aid.  Israel and Saudi Arabia, who take eighth and ninth spots, respecitvely, spend a higher percentage of their GDP on military spending than the U.S.
Countries perceived to be less powerful tended to be smaller nations with medium to small economies. Slovenia, a small country in Central Europe, is viewed as the least powerful nation, although considered a developed country. The small Baltic country of Latvia and South American nation of Uruguay also were seen as lacking power, as was Costa Rica, a country where the U.S. military is active especially in intercepting drug cartels.
Iran [ranking 13], once the heart of the great Persian Empire, sits in southwestern Asia, bordered to its east by Afghanistan and to its west by Iraq. Iran has one of the largest economies in the Middle East and one of the largest populations, with about 80 million people. While Iran experienced secular reforms and a glimpse of democracy in the mid-20th century, today it is governed by an authoritarian regime.
Iran can trace its history back 2,500 years to the time of the Achaemenids. The country has long been of interest to global powers because of its strategic location within the Middle East and its abundant supply of oil and other natural resources. The modern state of Iran was founded in 1925. After several western-backed attempts to control Iran’s leadership, the country became an Islamic Republic in 1979.Iran is a theocratic republic with a supreme leader appointed for life by the Assembly of Experts and a president elected by popular vote. In the May 2017 presidential election, incumbent Hassan Rouhani, a moderate conservative, handily beat hardline challenger Ebrahim Raisi. The vast majority of Iranians are Shiite Muslim, which is the official state religion. Persian, or Farsi, is the official language. 

Read more: 

► Iran among top 10 military powers in Asia

► Who will be the winner of a Saudi-Iran war?

► Iran world’s 18th largest economy in 2017

► Iran ranks 5th in global scientific growth

Iran's economy relies primarily on oil and gas exports – the country holds about 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves – but it also has significant agricultural, industrial and service sectors. International sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear program were lifted by the United Nations in 2016 for satisfactory compliance with an agreement to limit nuclear activity, but a history of isolation has badly hurt the economy. Inflation and high unemployment remain large concerns. 
Iranian culture has been shaped by the country’s literature. The works of Persian poets Ḥāfeẓ, Rūmī and others often have a place on Iranian shelves, inspiring the country’s modern writers. Iran has also gained international acclaim for its film industry, fine carpets and architecturally significant mosques, madrassas, shrines and palaces.
In addition to economic challenges, Iran has problems with sex trafficking, opiate addiction and corruption. Iran has difficult relationships with several neighbors over territorial disputes and has drawn the ire of many global leaders for its involvement in state sponsored terrorism. 
Iran is a founding member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and is a member several other international organizations, including the United Nations. 
Other countries in this ranking include:
 25. Egypt
24. Singapore
23. Spain
22. Pakistan
21. The Netherlands
20. Qatar
19. Sweden
18. Italy
17. Switzerland
16. Australia
15. India
14. Turkey
13. Iran
12. Canada
11. South Korea-
10. The United Arab Emirates
9. Saudi Arabia
8. Israel
7. Japan
6. France
5. United Kingdom
4. Germany
3. China
2. Russia
1. United States

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