The British Council announced at the start of February, that we have had to suspend our operations in Iran. A sad day for the British Council, and also for tens of thousands of Iranians who have engaged with our cultural and education programmes in recent years. So far so uncontroversial. However, let’s not forget the deeper loss – the loss to the people of the UK.
As Hillary Clinton said last week, "America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America. "We must use what has been called 'smart power,' the full range of tools at our disposal," she said, embracing diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural strategies.
At the British Council – the UK’s international cultural and educational body – we’ve been thinking about what we call the International Relations Positioning Spectrum. It draws on work by Nick Cull and work done by Ali Fisher and Counterpoint, our cultural relations think tank on ‘'Options for Influence’.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of a nice lunch in West Los Angeles with a team from the British Council out from Washington, D.C. The team was led by Ms. Sarah Frankland, Arts Manager, from the British Council.
The topic was theater and public diplomacy. The Council was trying something new in their programming -- bringing what could be a controversial play to the United States. Not only controversial, but a play that addressed one of the most volatile subjects in the U.S. and the world today: The U.S.-led war in Iraq.