No, U.S. diplomats haven’t returned to Iran to face the mob that overran the British Embassy last week. No feet are required on the ground for this first-ever virtual embassy launched by the U.S. State Department as part of its friend-making campaign towards the Iranian people.
Under Secretary Wendy Sherman made the announcement today, saying that the U.S. wants “to communicate directly to the people of Iran. We want all Iranians, especially the very large population of young people inside Iran, to see that the United States has deep respect for the Iranian people and its civilization. We want to support a more direct and robust engagement between us and the people of Iran, as we have in other countries where we have physical embassies. The virtual embassy is a hub in Persian and English for information not only on U.S. policy towards Iran but also a place to get insight into American culture and society, find visa applications, learn about opportunities to study in the United States. Virtual Embassy Tehran is a launch pad for our interactive efforts, our blogs, our Persian Facebook and Twitter pages, and our YouTube channel.”
The relationship between the U.S. and Iran has been made more tense of late by the Iranian administrations continued attempts to develop nuclear material and the recent crash of a CIA drone in Iranian territory. The Iranian government will likely attempt to block the site from networks within the country, as they have for many site they deem inappropriate or counter to their own message. At the time of the announcement, the site had been operating for several hours with no attacks or blockage. Should it happen, the U.S. will do whatever it can to reset access and is confident that they can keep it up and accessible.
This does not signal a change in the diplomatic relationship, or lack thereof, between the two countries, but a new tactic to reach directly to the Iranian people.
Area: 1.6 million sq. km. (636,295 sq. mi., slightly larger than Alaska).
Arable land: 9.78% of the country.
Cities: Capital–Tehran. Other cities–Isfahan, Tabriz, Mashhad, Shiraz, Yazd, Qom.
Terrain: Desert and mountains.
Climate: Semiarid; subtropical along the Caspian coast.
Nationality: Noun and adjective–Iranian(s).
Population (July 2010 est.): 76,923,300 million.
Population growth rate (July 2010): 0. 1.253%%.
Ethnic groups: Persians 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%.
Religions: Shi’a Muslim 89%; Sunni Muslim 9%; Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha’i 2%.
Languages: Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Turkic languages (besides Turkish) 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, other 2%.
Education: Literacy (total population age 15 and over who can read and write, 2003)–79% (male: 86%, female: 73%).
Health (2010 est.): Infant mortality rate— 43.45 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth (2010)–total population: 69.77yrs.
Type: Islamic republic.
Constitution: Ratified in December 1979, revised 1989.
Branches: Executive–Supreme Leader (head of state), President (head of government), Council of Ministers, Assembly of Experts, Expediency Council, Council of Guardians.Legislative–290-member Majles (National Assembly, or Islamic Consultative Assembly).Judicial–Supreme Judiciary.
Suffrage: Universal suffrage; 18 years of age.