The British Council announced at the start of February, that we have had to suspend our operations in Iran. A sad day for the British Council, and also for tens of thousands of Iranians who have engaged with our cultural and education programmes in recent years. So far so uncontroversial. However, let’s not forget the deeper loss – the loss to the people of the UK.
It doesn’t count as public diplomacy — not yet. But the way in which the Iranian authorities have permitted foreign media visits, especially coverage by major American media (e.g., NPR and the NYT) , not to mention official Iranian comments on bilateral relations, suggests a whiff of change toward caring what the Western world thinks.
Ever since his rise to power in 2005 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has enjoyed being in the spotlight of American attention. Not without the help of the news media and the White House’s preoccupation with his persona, the Iranian President successfully managed to turn many of his public appearances into public diplomacy triumphs.
The Wall Street Journal
Consider, then, the "public diplomacy" impact of a serious public offer to Iran, made through international media and from the podium (so often usurped by the clownish Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) of the United Nations.
Iran is the latest entry in the international satellite news channel sweepstakes. Its 24-hour English service, "Press TV," debuted July 2. It is funded by the Iranian government, and one supposes by each of us when we gas up our cars. But Press TV is sharing attention today with a planned Middle East "Adult" channel, which is said to be in the works.
Joshua Kurlantzick, in "Can Public Diplomacy Counter Resource Nationalism?," paints a rather alarming geo-strategic picture for the United States. The recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization showcased the warming relations between oil-rich Iran and Russia with the budding super-consumer, China.
Earlier this year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in China -- and quickly made himself at home. The occasion was a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional group linking China, Russia, and Central Asia. During the summit, Ahmadinejad seemed to be everywhere. He posed, arms linked, with Russian and Chinese officials, who said nothing as he called for "impartial and independent experts" to investigate whether the Holocaust happened. He delivered a major address broadcast on Chinese state television.