On Wednesday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would soon establish a “virtual embassy” in Iran in order to foster stronger people-to-people relations with the Iranian population. The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since the current Iranian regime came to power in the 1979 revolution that toppled the pro-Western Shah.
“What we’re going to do, despite the fact we do not have diplomatic relations, is I’m going to announce the opening of a virtual embassy in Tehran. The website will be up and going at the end of the year,” Clinton said. She added, “We’re going to continue to reach out, particularly to students, and encourage that you come back and study in the United States. And we’re going to look for other people-to-people exchanges that will try to develop the relationships that I think are so important between the American people and the Iranian people, for the 21st century.”
Clinton made the announcement during interviews with Voice of America and the BBC’s Persian language news sources. These were the first interviews Clinton has given with any Persian language media.
In order to do this the United States would have to circumvent the Iranian government’s internet censorship, which has increased considerable since the large demonstrations that followed the disputed 2009 Presidential election. Clinton didn’t provide any details into how the U.S. might bypass these restrictions, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
During the interviews Secretary Clinton also reiterated that Washington believes the Iranian government is increasingly becoming a military dictatorship, citing as evidence the military’s expanding economic portfolio as well as recent comments made by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, which indicated that he might eliminate Iran’s presidency altogether. Clinton and other U.S. officials have made similar comments in the past, though with considerably less detail than was given on Wednesday.
Clinton’s interview comes two weeks after the Obama administration said it had foiled an Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States in a Washington, D.C. restaurant. Iran has denied any involvement and claims the Obama administration made the whole thing up in a bid to divert attention away from domestic issues like the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Since the administration went public with the plot it has been actively trying to use the incident to build international support for revamped sanctions on Iran. This week, David Cohen, the U.S. undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, traveled to Europe to try to build support among European governments for sanctioning Iran’s central bank.
Many in Congress have called the plot an “act of war” and advocated a strong response. On Wednesday Rep Peter King (R-NY), who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said the administration should expel the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York.