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What are the U.S goals of launching a virtual embassy in Iran?

In an apparent act of public diplomacy, U.S secretary of state Hillary Clinton appeared on BBC Persian TV channel to address Persian-speaking audiences about different issues between Iran and America. During the interview, Clinton proposed a new idea called U.S virtual embassy in Iran. This idea could be considered as the latest Obama’s government initiative on Iranians. After more than 30 years since relations between U.S and Iran were severed and thus U.S lacked any embassy in Iran, Obama government launched the virtual embassy for its diplomacy purposes. Obama is trying to influence Iranian people and policies through his new initiative. Through reaching out Iranian audiences, Obama struggles to convince Iranian government give up its nuclear program, according to U.S TODAYS news. U.S secretary of state has said that online embassy in Iran is designed to increase communications with Iranian people. She told Iranian audiences: “Since Iran and U.S have no diplomatic relations, we have missed important opportunities for dialogue with you. This is an appropriate space for U.S to communicate with everybody who could know more about U.S, our policies, culture and people.” (persian.iran.usembassy.gov).

U.S Department of State has described the roles of virtual embassy in order to prevent any unpleasant event for U.S: “it is not a formal diplomatic mission and also not considered as a representation or real symbol of U.S embassy in Iran. It is aimed to open a communication line between Iranian and U.S people. Virtual embassy means a channel for Iranian people to obtain directly Information on U.S.”

Within the virtual embassy website, Hillary Clinton invites people to communicate with the website continuously and asks to follow them in twitter, Facebook, YouTube and weblog. Clinton says that the online embassy could acts as a bridge between Iranian and U.S people in the absence of a direct relationship between two countries. She also states that virtual embassy is an effort aimed to applying a new technology for filling the current gap and promoting greater understanding between two countries.

Within the framework of continuing efforts to influence on its audiences, Clinton told VOA channel that we are willing to have a good relationship with Iran and President Obama also commits himself to this issue, but so far we have not received any positive reaction from Iran. Based on theoretical framework of this paper, it could be seen that U.S is trying to achieve favorable opinions of Iranian audiences toward United States through tools of public diplomacy and in contrast, to reduce Iranian authority position before Public opinion. Further, U.S officials has stated that virtual embassy’s website might will be blocked or censored by Iranian government, but they will try to show their audiences the latest ways for accessing to website or bypassing Government barriers. However, after blocking the website by Iran, White House press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement: “We condemn the Iranian government’s efforts to deny their people the freedom to access America’s recently launched Virtual Embassy Tehran. Through this action, the Iranian government has once again demonstrated its commitment to build an electronic curtain of surveillance and censorship around its people.” Of course, these reactions had been shaped in an atmosphere of stimulating public opinions and other U.S officials also provoke this. “We think we can get its technical abilities with this disturbance and we are obliged to do everything and you can be sure we will send the information to confront the government in different ways.” Sherman said. Washingtonpost.com 2011/12. The United States also reject the idea of supporting terrorist attacks on Iran and MEK on this website (Hindustantimes.com/world-news). The other important point is it is said that the US embassy in Iran was closed in 1979 when militants attacked the building and took the American diplomats as hostages for 444 days. There is no sign of employees’ practices against Iran and it is tried to show Iran is the one to be blamed for the tension in relations. The US DOP website says it has established this virtual embassy to get in touch with the people who have been isolated by their government (www.state.gov). Wendy Sherman, third person in DOP, in a press conference with Washington post introducing the embassy declared that US government seeks talks with Iranian regular citizens who are different with their government (US open virtual embassy PHYSorg.com 6 Dec 2021). “One of our main goals is to establish cultural relationships and to exchange information directly with Iranian people” she added. In US senate foreign relations committee in December 2011 Sherman describing US policies against Iran also talked about the general diplomacy of virtual embassy and social networks. “We help those Iranians who intend to question their government by exchanging information through media. Our virtual embassy in Tehran will be triggered to get more information about politics, Visa, and education opportunities in the US. We will also aid our clients in Iran through facebook page, Persian twitter account, and our media such as VOA or Radio Frada. Right now we are trying to prevent the Iranian government from affecting our satellite signals and we are developing special software for the ease of free flow of information. These actions are taken to clarify our sincere intention for dealing with Iranians and to develop internal issues between Iranian leaders”. It’s quite obvious that beside other physical US policies, it’s the general diplomacy that still keeps its position within United Stated policies (Sherman, policy on Iran, December 1, 2021).

US virtual embassy website established on the basis of US general diplomacy framework and the road map which reflects the following issues:

  1. 1.The value of open societies
  2. 2.International human rights standards
  3. 3.The progress of electronic and cyber communications
  4. 4.International reactions against Iranian government
  5. 5.US culture and society
  6. 6.US interest for students’ trade with Iran

(US department of state bureau of public affairs.state.gov)

The virtual embassy provides visa and education opportunities for the Iranian people in the US besides introducing its own country. Iranian people can set their schedule to get US visa. The United States use all the tools available in general diplomacy as well as digital and old fashioned media, internet, different TV and radio networks, elite interactions, cultural and educational exchange, and creating many websites in the cyber space to reach its goals by influencing on the populace.

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