GovLaunch: US May Remain in Syria… Virtually Speaking, Of Course

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    Corey McCarren

    Nextgov reported Monday (2/6/2012) that the US State Department, though it has left its physical embassy in Syria, may maintain a presence in Syria via social media and its embassy website. The State Department closed the US embassy in Damascus early this week in response to violent crackdowns by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as potential attacks against Ambassador Robert Ford. Sheldon Himelfarb, a researcher at the United States Institute of Peace, had this to say:

    “There’s no magic bullet that’s going to take the place of having people on the ground in the country … But, absolutely, social media allows us to continue to reach out to activists and civil society and ordinary citizens regardless of the embassy doors being open.”

    The United States, for the past two months, has maintained a “virtual embassy” in Tehran. Though the website is blocked by the Iranian government, the people can circumvent the blockage via proxy servers and other tools. It is designed to be an alternate source of information about the US, as opposed to Iran’s state run media.

    Can virtual embassies be a successful alternative to physical embassies in states which are unstable or unfriendly towards the US?

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