Days after angry Iranian students overran the British embassy in Tehran, The U.S. has opened its new "embassy" for Iranian citizens. Senior U.S. diplomats haven't returned to Tehran after more than 30 years – this department is web only.
The front page features a welcome video from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the seal of the State Department, with the banner "Virtual Embassy of the United States, Tehran – Iran" set at the very top.
But as the welcome message reads,
"This website is not a formal diplomatic mission, nor does it represent or describe a real U.S. Embassy accredited to the Iranian Government. But, in the absence of direct contact, it can work as a bridge between the American and Iranian people."
The State Department says while the Iranian government is trying to shut off information to its citizens about the U.S., it's still reaching out to Iranian civilians. Earlier this year, the agency set up Twitter and Facebook pages in Farsi, both of which can be accessed from the new website. And new features include a video greeting from President Obama on the occasion of the Iranian New Year, also translated into Farsi.
The page is positive and friendly, with little negative information. It breezes over the 1979 Iranian revolution that saw the end of the formal Iranian – U.S. relationship, with nothing written about the fate of the American embassy or the American hostages held there for 15 months.
While the U.S. ramps up its outreach to Iranian civilians, a top Iranian leader says foreign diplomats will receive better protection within Iran in the future. Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says young Iranians attacked the British embassy last week because they were angry over new British sanctions on Iran for that country's nuclear policy, according to Reuters. Britain pulled its diplomats out of Iran and forced Iranian diplomats to go home. Salehi says it won't happen again.
However, a member of the Iranian Parliament published an opinion piece in the Tehran Times today, justifying the embassy attack. He darkly warns Britain to reverse its new sanctions, otherwise the Iranian parliament will take "tougher measures and the remaining channels of communication will be completely shut down."