Iran pushes social media diplomacy as talks begin

Rouhani's Twitter account promotes new English-language website that purports to explain the truth behind Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

By HENRY ROME
November 21, 2013 03:00
1 minute read.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in YouTube address, November 19, 2013.

Iranian FM Javad Zarif 370. (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)

 
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The Iranian government has ramped up its Internet outreach over its nuclear program in recent days, in advance of the nuclear negotiations that began on Wednesday in Geneva.

The Iranian foreign minister recorded an English YouTube video explaining, partly on a moral level, the country’s right to nuclear energy.

The video – with subtitles in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and French – was published on Tuesday and had accrued nearly 120,000 views by Wednesday night.

The five-minute video opened with piano music and showed Mohammed Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, apparently strolling through the palatial headquarters of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

He then took a seat in front of a wooden bookshelf that featured classic works of Iranian poetry, including Hafez and Ferdowsi.

While most of the book spines were in Persian, the two titles most clearly readable in English were two atlas volumes of the Persian Gulf – perhaps a reference to a long-running dispute over the name of the body of water.

Zarif spoke in a measured, circuitous way, only saying the word “nuclear” three times.


The beginning of his address was more akin to a professor’s lecture than a policy address by a nuclear negotiator.

“What is dignity?” he asked. “What is respect?” Concluding the video like an American political candidate, Zarif said, “My name is Javad Zarif, and this is Iran’s message.”

The Twitter account belonging to President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, heavily promoted a slick new English-language website that purports to explain the truth behind Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The website’s articles are structured like a Wikipedia entry, albeit an un-editable version.

The social media accounts of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei mirrored this, but with more aggressive anti-American and anti-Israeli public statements.

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