THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT has blocked access to a virtual embassy established in the country by the United States, ending an effort to share American ideas and values to the Islamic nation.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed that the US had launched a virtual embassy to the country, accessible at iran.usembassy.gov. The web site provides news, articles, and videos from both Clinton and US President Barack Obama, who speak directly to the people of Iran.
The embassy launched on Tuesday, believed to be a religious holiday in Iran, so it went largely unnoticed. When the Iranian government found out about it on Wednesday, however, it blocked access to the web site and strongly criticised the US.
"Such efforts should not be taken seriously as they reflect solely the lack of U.S. political awareness that such moves would merely strengthen unity in Iran," said Ali Larijani, a speaker in the Iranian parliament, according to Haaretz. He accused a US Jewish lobby group of coming up with the idea and said that it was designed to distract people from internal problems in the US ahead of next year's presidential election.
The White House issued a statement condemning the web site blocking. "Through this action, the Iranian government has once again demonstrated its commitment to build an electronic curtain of surveillance and censorship around its people.
"The United States remains steadfast in our commitment to a dialogue with the Iranian people based upon mutual interests, mutual respect, and admiration for a great and ancient civilization. The Iranian government should explain to its own people why it fears their ability to access the information that they choose."
The US government said that its efforts were not designed to meddle in domestic affairs, but to provide the Iranian people with US policy and travel information, and that it was forced to employ a virtual embassy since it could not have a brick-and-mortar one.
Iranians will likely be able to access the virtual embassy through proxy servers and virtual private networks. µ