Nuclear Agreement and Zarif’s Media Diplomacy

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reza Solat
Ph.D. in International Relations and Expert on Turkey Issues

The nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries was the main headline of most international media last week and no newspaper, website, news agency or magazine was able to ignore various dimensions of and reactions to this historical development. This article aims to review the innovative soft power diplomacy used by Iran's Foreign Minister Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif in the course of the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group in Vienna. It also aims to answer the question as to why Iran's foreign minister took advantage of this diplomacy.

From the viewpoint of using codes, even the jargon and new concepts used by Iran's top nuclear negotiator were indicative of a profound intellectual development. This collection of new words and concepts provided opportunities for researchers, intellectuals, world politicians, and to some extent the public opinion in order to produce their own concepts and theories and expand the horizons of negotiations in Vienna. The soft power of Zarif’s media diplomacy through the Twitter, in addition to his “balcony diplomacy,” which were used to the best effect by him, actually paved the way for the creation of a totally new set of concepts. In fact, the Iranian foreign minister did not wait for interview requests from media in order to reflect his viewpoints, but made his viewpoints directly available to domestic and foreign audiences. He believes that today, human sentiments have also become globalized and the way viewpoints are propagated is effective in creating influence or vulnerability at international level. Through appropriate use of media diplomacy, Zarif brought the negotiations into global public spaces where no limits and restrictions could be imposed.

By using this diplomacy, Zarif attracted the positive attention of the public opinion and international community to his views. Also by using this method, he was able to cause excitement in negotiations when he wanted, while bringing back order to negotiations when excitement seemed to be getting out of hand. The method used by Zarif should be considered as a continuation of rational public diplomacy and a factor for the creation of realism, because Zarif was critical of the situation in which the world had little information about Iran. As a result, he reached the conclusion that diplomacy must be pushed ahead with realism. On the other hand, Zarif’s good command of English and, most importantly, his good knowledge of dynamism of international systems and relations must be considered a positive point for him to which, even his Western critics have admitted. The ability of the diplomatic soft power of Zarif will be better explained as a result of the connection that is established among history, geography, cultural depth, economic power and democracy in international system, as a result of which the position of Iran's diplomatic team will become more pronounced. Zarif is aware that globalization has made the function of international relations much more complicated in today’s world, because, in parallel to conventional and traditional diplomacy, it gives a more important role to public diplomacy in guiding the international community, and its importance increases day by day.

In fact, Zarif saw it necessary to take advantage of tools and methods of public diplomacy to precisely address the international community and provide it with necessary information on foreign position of Iran, so that, the international community would show more respect for Iran. Through this method, Zarif did not try to simply convey Iranian government’s views to the world, but seasoned public diplomacy with soft power during the negotiations. In this way, he was also thinking about the position of Iran among other nations subsequent to the nuclear talks because he was well aware that the role and power of public diplomacy and even virtual dialog in the age of globalization was no less than the negotiating table in Vienna. Zarif correctly understood that various media, economic and other corporations across the world had their attention riveted on Vienna due to historical importance of the issue of Iran's nuclear negotiations. Therefore, he made the right decision by not waiting for media and correspondents, and advancing his position under conditions of globalization. In doing so, he did his best to project a suitable image of Iran because he knew that the entire world had its eyes fixed on where he stood.

Perhaps, legitimization of a country’s policies in the eyes of other nations is one of the capacities of soft power and Zarif was trying hard to use this capacity in Vienna, because he believed that accepting the legitimacy of a country’s policies by other nations is a sign of that country’s soft power. One of the main pillars of Zarif’s soft power in this regard was his diplomatic experience and charisma. He knew that following negotiations in Vienna, the values created by soft power in addition to Iran's historical and cultural depth would lead to major regional changes and will provide the country with opportunities to create new spheres of influence in the region.

On the whole, Mr. Zarif’s public diplomacy has been one of the main tools of this multifaceted process. In this state, public diplomacy turns into a dynamic and multidimensional communication process for Iran after Vienna talks, whose main tools include listening as much as talking, understanding aimed at explaining, and establishing contacts in order to disseminate information. So, the strategy used by Iran's foreign minister is based on the important factor of public opinion, which plays a central and increasing role in shaping national and global policies. All national and international political processes are being meticulously observed and made available to the international community through media. Therefore, it is not possible for any policy in the areas of economy, foreign policy, energy, or environment to be implemented without first gaining people’s confirmation. The main condition for the success of public diplomacy is to follow logical, encouraging, and tenable policies. Therefore, it is not possible to garner public support for that group of international community’s policies that are considered by people as unjust and against the public rules of diplomacy, or encourage such illegitimate methods as threat, violence or occupation. So, through its own style of media diplomacy, Zarif was thinking about the position of Iran subsequent to the nuclear talks because the world had its eye fixed on Vienna and this provided Dr. Zarif with a unique opportunity to show off his own initiatives and mechanisms.

Key Words: Iran, Nuclear Agreement, Media Diplomacy, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Soft Power, Solat

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*Photo Credit: Mehr News