Twitter Diplomacy, Facebook Friending: Iran, U.S., U.K. Engage

Photograph by Jason DeCrow/AP Photo

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif leaves a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, on Sept. 26, 2013.

The new Iranian government, which took office only in August, is waging an asymmetric diplomatic battle against the West. Outnumbered and isolated over its nuclear program and support for Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad, Iran’s new leaders have taken to the world of social media to push their message.

On Facebook, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif offers poetry, photographs of himself at the United Nations and detailed accounts of his meetings. Zarif updates his status for his growing fan base, which has reached 389,005, even as he is flying over the Atlantic ocean. Every time he updates his status, he receives upward of 40,000 likes and thousands of comments.

He doesn’t hold back. (How does he find the time?)

By comparison, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s official page, managed by his staff, has 26,566 fans. The last entry was from Dec. 18, 2012, a tribute to Hawaii’s Sen. Daniel Inouye, who died a day earlier. (He left his heart in Nantucket, judging by the photo there.) On Twitter, he also has handed matters over to the staff.

The U.K.’s William Hague, with 14,000 fans, is more current on his Facebook page, though the last entry was on Sept. 23, the day before the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. He has 179,551 Twitter followers, where he is more current at this count:

With talks on Iran’s nuclear program set to start on Oct. 15, we can expect to see more talking points emerge from Zarif. As for heads of state, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is garnering only 86,370 fans and 103,000 followers on Twitter, where he is preaching peace.

The clear winner is President Barack Obama, with more than 36 million Facebook fans and another 37.5 million followers on Twitter. His staff runs these things, too, though he occasionally signs as BO. Right now @BarackObama is preoccupied with a certain Washington shutdown:

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