In a unique bid to directly reach out to people of Iran, the US has launched a virtual online embassy to provide services like visa information to them despite the lack of diplomatic ties, pledging to break through the "electronic curtain" of the regime in Tehran.
"This initiative is designed to enhance our outreach to the Iranian people, notwithstanding the lack of diplomatic ties between our two governments," Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman told media persons at the launch of the website, which is both in English and Persian.
Through this first-ever virtual embassy, which is accessible at http://iran.usembassy.gov/, the US wishes to communicate directly to the people of Iran, she said.
"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 civilisation," the US official said.
Noting that the US wants to support a more direct and robust engagement between it and the people of Iran, as it has done with other countries where it has its physical embassies, Sherman said the virtual embassy is a hub for information not only on American policy towards Iran but is also a place to get insight into the US culture and society, find visa applications, and 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 page, and our YouTube channel. Unfortunately, the leadership in Iran has a track record of opposing freedom of expression, both online and on the street," she said.
Sherman charged the Iranian regime with trying to impose an electronic curtain by disrupting cell phones, the internet and social media.
"This is one more effort to try and get around that curtain and get information directly to the Iranian people. We have long been clear in our message to the Iranian people that, notwithstanding our very strong differences with the policies and actions of their government, the United States wants a dialogue that builds trust and mutual understanding with the people themselves," Sherman said.
Responding to questions, she said the US has made efforts to prevent any jamming effort by the Iranian regime.
"We have put resources into training people all around the world in ways to go around jamming. Many people already have private networks, virtual private networks that allow them to go through and around efforts to stop them from getting internet access.
"So we'll continue to do whatever we can. We think we have the technical capability to get it back up even if it gets disrupted, and we're committed to doing everything we can to make sure the information gets through," she said.