Muhammad Fraser-Rahim, lobelog.com
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It is hard to discern the direct aim of Iran’s interest in engaging with Black American communities. Tehran might intend to counter Saudi-backed religious and ideological influence or it might sincerely want to aid communities of color in the U.S. who are affected by a spectrum of challenges. In any case, engaging with the larger Black American community, whether Muslim or not, offers an opportunity to counter some of the historical tensions between the U.S. and Iran through the alternative dimension of public diplomacy. As Ralph Bunche, the black American diplomat and 1950 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his 1940s mediation on Israel, argued:
Carefully chosen Negroes could prove more effective than whites [in diplomacy to the “dark world”], owing to their unique ability to gain more readily the confidence of the Native on the basis of their right to claim a good relationship.
Only time will tell whether any of the public overtures made by Iran in an effort to connect with African Americans will actually resonate. However, the desire to address the grievances of a large segment of the US population represents an important feature of Iran’s foreign policy.