The United States is planning to open an embassy for Iran for the first time since 1980 — but only on the Internet.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the BBC that the “virtual embassy” would open by the end of 2011 and give Iranians information about visas and student exchange programs.
“We want to create better relations first and foremost with the Iranian people,” Clinton told the BBC’s Persian-language outlet.
The U.S. severed formal diplomatic ties with Iran shortly after the Iran hostage crisis, in which 52 American hostages were held for 444 days, ending in 1981. There has not been an American embassy in Tehran since. Likewise, there is no Iranian embassy in Washington, D.C. Each government bases their business in the other’s capital in the embassy of a third-party country.
Clinton told Persian-language media, according to Reuters, that she hoped to make connections with the Iranian people despite tensions with their government. On her list of those tensions were the Iranian nuclear weapons program, aggressive behavior toward neighbors in the region and a case in which the U.S. has accused the Iranian government of attempting to murder the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.
She also acknowledged that the U.S. was helping Iranians circumvent government blocks and restrictions on the Internet and other digital communication — which could be fortunate should Iran attempt to block the new “embassy.”