I am currently traveling on business, but have excerpted some comments from the US Department of State’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman, on the current status of US policy towards Iran. There were several interesting sections, but the discussion of US outreach targeting Iranian citizens I found particularly interesting.
Coupled with our concerns about human rights are our concerns about the well-being of the Iranian people. Every day, we hear from the Iranian people directly through our public diplomacy programs and Farsi-language social media platforms. The Virtual Embassy Tehran, launched in December 2011, has over 2 million hits and our Farsi-language Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube channel have also been enormously successful. The 170 videos on our YouTube channel have more than 1 million views and our Facebook page has over 120,000 fans, 60 percent of whom are inside of Iran and who access our sites even though the Iranian regime blocks the site.
What we see through our interactions is that the Iranian people are being detrimentally affected by the misplaced priorities, corruption and mismanagement of their government. Instead of meeting the needs of its own people, the Iranian regime has chosen to spend enormous amounts of its money and resources to support the Asad regime as well as its militant proxies around the world, and to pursue the development of weapons of mass destruction. Instead of investing in its people, Iran continues to restrain their vast potential through censorship, oppression, and severe limitations on their social, political and even academic freedoms.
As the President and the Secretary have said, in the United States our own communities have been enhanced by the contributions of Iranian Americans. We know that the Iranian people come from a great civilization whose accomplishments have earned the respect of the world. That is why in his 2013 Nowruz message, the President emphasized that there is no good reason for Iranians to be denied the opportunities enjoyed by people in other countries.
Iranians deserve the same freedoms and rights as people everywhere and all nations would benefit from the talents and creativity of the Iranian people, especially its youth. It is a shame that much of the world realizes this and the Iranian government has yet to do so.
In sum, Iranians deserve better. Their government has chosen to isolate them, stunt their economic growth, repress their ability to speak freely, and connect the people of Iran with the most heinous acts of terrorism and regional adventurism. Iran’s government can choose to end these policies at any time and put their people’s well being first.
As the President said, we have no illusions about the difficulty of overcoming decades of mistrust. It will take a serious and sustained effort to resolve the many differences between Iran and the United States. We do not expect to always agree, but rather for Iran to be an honest and responsible member of the international community, a community where members honor their commitments and keep their word or pay the price.
Image copyright: International Herald Tribune