News / Middle East

US Opens 'Virtual Embassy' for Iran

The United States Tuesday officially opened the “Virtual U.S. Embassy Tehran,” an interactive website aimed at providing services and information to Iranians despite the lack of diplomatic relations. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls it a vehicle for Americans and Iranians to communicate without fear.

Secretary Clinton announced plans for the unprecedented Internet project in an interview with Voice of America’s Persian service in late October.

The website became operational early Tuesday, displaying a video message from the Secretary of State, who said it aims to help bridge the gap between the two peoples that opened when diplomatic relations were severed more than 30 years ago.

“This is a platform for us to communicate with each other, openly and without fear, about the United States, about our policies, our culture and the American people. You can also find information here about opportunities to study in the United States, or to obtain a visa to come visit us," she said.

State Department officials say the virtual embassy will reduce, at least somewhat, the difficulty Iranians encounter in arranging travel to the United States.

They will still have to visit Persian-speaking U.S. visa sections in Ankara, Abu Dhabi and Dubai to obtain travel documents but now they can do much of the application process on-line.

The website also streamlines procedures for Iranians  seeking to study at U.S. colleges and universities, with the aim of increasing the Iranian student population in the United States. The number currently exceeds 5,000.

At a roll-out event for the virtual embassy, Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said it is an effort to skirt the “electronic curtain” erected by the Tehran government to block Internet links between Iranians and the outside world.

She said there had been no attempt by Iran to jam the U.S. website in its initial hours of operation. But said there are contingency plans in case that happens.

“We have put resources into training people all around the world in ways to go around jamming. Many people already have private networks, virtual private networks, that allow them to go through and around efforts to stop them from getting Internet access. So we’ll continue to do whatever we can. We think we have the technical capability to get it back up even if it gets disrupted," she said.

The virtual embassy includes information on U.S. policy on Iran and challenges what a senior official here termed “pervasive myths”, among them that U.S. policy aims to overthrow Iran’s government, that it opposes Iran’s development of peaceful nuclear energy, and that U.S. nuclear sanctions are to punish the Iranian people.

Iranians are invited to contribute comments and criticism through links to State Department Twitter and Facebook accounts provided on the new website.

Iran responded caustically to Clinton’s initial announcement of the virtual embassy with parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani saying the project is doomed to failure.

But a State Department official expressed confidence the new project will be popular, saying a State Department Persian Facebook page created earlier this year has already had about one million “hits.”

The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since 1980, after militant supporters of Iran’s Islamic revolution stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held more than 50 Americans hostage for more than a year.

Iran has had a diplomatic “interests section” in Washington, technically part of the Pakistani embassy, for several years which handles consular, passport and other matters for Iranian nationals in the United States.

The new U.S. virtual embassy website can be viewed in English iran.usembassy.gov and in Persian at persian.iran.usembassy.gov.

You May Like

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid