Iran Blocks American 'Virtual Embassy'
Iran on Tuesday blocked a new website set up by the U.S. government that had been intended to act as a “virtual embassy.” Since then, American experts have been able to temporarily avoid Iranian efforts to prevent its citizens from accessing the site, but in a statement Thursday, Iran said that the American efforts to “reach out” to Iranians would fail.
"The virtual initiatives will neither compensate for (American) mistakes, nor relay the U.S. message to the Iranian people,” said Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast. Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh told local Mehr news agency Wednesday that the launch of the virtual embassy is "a kind of public announcement to attract spies (from Iranians) to the U.S.,” while Iranian MP Hassan Ghafourifard said that Iranians, “who know and recognizes the U.S. plots in any forms,” would not be fooled.
In response to the virtual shutting down of a new U.S. embassy in Iran, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the U.S. condemns 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," he said, asserting that the effort is "doomed to fail in a 21st century when technology is empowering citizens around the globe.” He added that the U.S. would keep trying to send its message to the Iranian people.
The idea for the site was hatched in October by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said the site would enable Iranians to apply for visas to the U.S. and apply for spots in U.S. universities. In a video posted on the site, Clinton said the site was necessary “because the United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations. As a result we have missed some important opportunities for dialogue with you, the citizens of Iran. 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,” she said.
The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Iran on April 7, 1980 after a group of Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy and captured some 60 U.S. diplomats in 1979, with 52 of them held captive for 444 days in the hostage crisis.