The Necessity of Showing Iran’s Soft Power

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh
Executive Editor of Iran Review

Our most important shortcoming in foreign policy is the lack of an integrated, up-to-date, and above all, an initiative and creative program in image-building and confronting the organized efforts of the West in destroying the system’s reputation.

Since many years ago, the West has targeted the reputation of the Islamic Republic in an organized plan and, through a slow and step-by-step movement, tried to draw a picture of the system as a problematic player who threatens global peace and security and is inattentive to the destiny and interests of its own people instead of showing it as a system which claims to follow progressive methods based on divine teachings for human life. On this basis, from the first days of the revolution, the West began its claim of human rights violations in Iran and for more than three decades, with few low points and many high points, used the leverage of human rights violations at different junctures against the Islamic Republic, undermining major parts of the diplomatic ability of the country. On the other hand, the West propagated this baseless claim that Iran supports terrorism and then spread lies about Iran’s nuclear program to the extent that the peaceful activities of the country concerned world public opinion and Iran was deemed a threat to peace and security and a destabilizing element for regional security.

The West declared its official positions and simultaneously used different means to influence public opinion; perhaps the reason behind its relative success in convincing public opinion to believe some of the above-mentioned points was the timely and calculated use of these means.

The West wrote, made movies, took pictures, filmed live interviews, took polls and published them, and made many other efforts which resulted in planning a huge and equipped structure of a front against us. But we often stopped at the official statements and positions phase. We even used a counter-attack policy only to show the weak points of the West and for an audience which itself was subject to their colorful tools.

Meanwhile, a principle has always been ignored, and that is the unused capacities of the country in soft power which, if combined with the right, tolerant, patient and innovative form of management, could provide a great atmosphere for the diplomatic system of the country and make way for deeper influence of the ruling system in regional and international layers. I will not continue writing about this issue; rather I’ll just direct the attention of the readers to the following points. May the end result serve as a guiding light for the foreign policy system of the country in 1391.

1. Based on the definition of Chinese experts on soft power, anything that could lead to the world public opinion’s admiration of the culture and civilization of China, and also correct public opinion’s interpretation of China’s policies and behaviors in the international scene, would be considered as the tools of soft power and its goals. On this basis, the establishment and leadership of more than 300 Confucius Institutes in different parts of the world aimed at teaching the Chinese language and culture to those willing to learn; a huge 4 billion pound investment on the expansion of public media, especially to increase the English-speaking sections of these networks, a plan to multiply by ten the number of employees of the national television of China by the year 2016, and increasing the number of local offices to 80 in different parts of the world-- particularly in the US and Africa-- will have special meaning.

2. China has tried to gradually reduce its dependence on imported energy resources. Based on statistics, China had no solar energy in 2003, but after five years, in 2008, became the biggest exporter of solar battery cells in the world. Beside economic interests, the more delicate point is that the Chinese know well that the attention and sensitivity of world public opinion with regard to environmental protection and the usage of clean fuels can be an alternative to the continuous condemnation of this country for its voluminous usage of coal.

3. Turkey has made great investments in the industry of television series aimed at attracting public opinion of the region--and even Africa-- towards its culture. From 2005 to 2011, this country has sold a total of 36,675 hours of television programs to 76 countries. In 2011, television programs from Turkey were sold, for the first time, to countries outside of the Middle East including the Balkan region, Singapore, Vietnam, and some African countries like Niger, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Somalia. The interesting point is that Greece is also among the countries which show Turkish films and series with Greek subtitles, and one out of every two people in Greece watch these programs.

4. India has made great investments in its components of soft power. Bollywood is very popular in Asia; Yoga, which has expanded globally, is an element in exporting Indian culture to the extent which, for example, it has 25,000 Indian teachers in Nepal; India also makes great efforts to increase its appeal by introducing its various foods, artifacts, and colorful dresses to the world and propagating its culture of tolerance and coexistence among different religions in its country so that it will not fall behind China. The important point is that, in this front, a competitor like Pakistan has nothing to offer and India, in trying to show that it can be considered as a model for peaceful coexistence of different beliefs for the whole world, has aimed to conquer European and American societies.

5. Iran is a land full of capacities of attraction, tolerance, passion, beauty, God’s blessings and spiritual calmness. Islamic Iran has many components for world culture and the lost human of the modern era. Scientific advancements of Iranians, in the past and the present, by the talented youth of this country can be a great source of soft power. The natural beauty of the country; its literature, folklore, music, traditions, healthy foods, Iranians’ view of the world, God and nature, ancient civilization, manifestations of the Shiite sect, and thousands of other Iranian elements can be endless sources to convince parts of world public opinion, who under the influence of targeted media propagation, consider Iran and Iranians as a threat to international peace and security.

6. In the middle of February 2012, the Gallup and PEW polling institutes in the US held separate polls, the results of which were, on one hand, an increase in the negative view of American society towards Iran, and a consideration of the Islamic Republic as a threat to international peace and security and, on the other hand, the frustration and vulnerability of the people of Iran under economic pressure and sanctions. Apart from the behind-the-scenes goals of these polls, what is important for us is to question why an American media outlet should be able to create such a threat from Iran for US citizens within a few years to consider it, among 32 countries, the biggest enemy for US national security. And we, in our official stances, only respond that these are all lies and baseless accusations. Why don’t we give this chance to other civil players to show the greatness of Iran’s soft power, even through trial and error, but with deeper and more sustainable means?

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)

More By Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh:

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*Iran, West and Human Rights: Is Compromise Impossible?:

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