The Middle East
PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND U.S. FOREIGN POLICY:
THE 1997-1998 IRAQ CRISIS
The United States Information Agency is probably best known for its educational, cultural, and
professional exchange programs. But USIA also plays an important role in explaining and
advocating U.S. foreign policy to overseas audiences. The role of USIA and USIS posts during
the 1997-1998 crisis over UN inspections in Iraq is an example of how public diplomacy supports
U.S. foreign policy and the national interest.
As part of an interagency group led by the National Security Council, USIA has made a vigorous
effort to inform foreign audiences about why the United States supports sanctions against Saddam
Hussein. USIA information programs have also emphasized American concern for the suffering
which Saddam Hussein has caused the Iraqi people.
USIA has arranged for senior American officials to speak to foreign publics. Strobe Talbott, the
Deputy Secretary of State, and Bill Richardson, the United States Ambassador to the United
Nations, are among officials who have given television and print interviews to foreign editors and reporters. They were able to reach Washington correspondents at USIA's Foreign Press Center
and questioners overseas through USIA's WORLDNET television. WORLDNET, for example, developed "Crisis in Iraq," a 60-minute weekly broadcast providing a comprehensive update on important developments in the dispute, with Administration officials and leading academic and military
Middle East experts as guests.
An overseas USIA web-site, "U.S. Policy on Iraq," is keyed to the concerns of foreign "opinion
leaders." It includes statements by President Clinton and other Administration officials, a special
report on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, fact sheets on Iraq's record with UNSCOM and
with the oil-for-food program, and other critical information. The site offers documents in
English, Arabic, Russian, French and Spanish, to reach audiences worldwide where the U.S.
sought support for its position.
USIS officers around the world have been at the forefront of the effort to inform and influence
foreign publics. Some examples of these public diplomacy activities are listed below.
The effort to inform and influence foreign publics has always been integral to USIA's mission. As
international media carry information instantaneously to publics once isolated from the rest of the
world, USIA's role in shaping the message has become more critical than ever.