Hours after its launch, the U.S. "virtual embassy" for Iran joined the tens of thousands of other websites
, including Facebook and news sites, that have been banned by Iran.
U.S. State Department officials have expressed hope that Iranians will access the web-based embassy by using antifiltering tools.
Washington says it hopes the virtual embassy will be a bridge for communication between the American and Iranian people
Iranian officials, however, see things differently.
Senior lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpishe said that in launching its virtual embassy, the United States was publicly announcing that it's intent on recruiting spies among Iranians. Falahatpishe, who heads the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the "virtual embassy" was intended to put pressure on Iran
The hard-line Javan
website referred to the virtual embassy as a "virtual house of espionage" and said that it is aimed at hurting Iran "from within".
In the past, the U.S. has also launched virtual embassies in Colombia's Bogota, India's Bangalore, and several other cities, and their duty is to collect information. The U.S., which has not had an embassy in Tehran since 1979, is unable to collect information regarding Iran's internal issues, and many Iranian affairs specialists in the U.S. believe that the ineffectiveness of the White House's policy toward Iran can be attributed to a great extent to the lack of information from inside Iran.
Washington currently obtains some of its information regarding Iran from what the Americans call embassies in exile, which are established in Dubai, the Republic of Azerbaijan, and, according to some sources, in Istanbul.
During the past two years and particularly after the [2009 Iranian presidential election], numerous reports have been published that indicate that the U.S. officials in neighboring countries are trying to collect information regarding Iran's domestic situation by contacting Iranian citizens during the process of obtaining visas. Consequently, it appears that the U.S. intends to collect information through the launch of an online embassy, which gives people a virtual character without creating any problems for them.
For his part, lawmaker Esmail Kosari predicted
that the virtual embassy would be active for only six months to a year. "U.S. officials should know that there will be so much criticism against them that they will soon regret their move and shut down the virtual embassy," Kosari said.
Shortly after the virtual embassy was opened, Seyed Ali Musavi, the leader of the hard-line Islamic Student Society, said that students would "capture
" it, as they did with the real U.S. Embassy 32 years ago.
"We would like to remind Mrs. [U.S. Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton that the students of this country occupied the den of spies [U.S. Embassy], there's no doubt that students will also capture the virtual embassy and they won't allow the U.S. to infiltrate the Islamic Revolution," Musavi said.
Musavi did not offer any details on how students would occupy a virtual embassy. He was speaking before Iran blocked the virtual embassy. Commenting on the blocking of the U.S. website, the hard-line Fars news agency said that "a decisive reaction by Iranian authorities has neutralized another sly plot by the Americans."
-- Golnaz Esfandiari