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CONFIRMED, Trump White House used Swiss back channel to de-escalate Iran conflict (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 431.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how the Trump White House worked through the Swiss Embassy, immediately following the death of Soleimani, to de-escalate the crisis with Iran.

Cutting through the fiery comments, tweets and media propaganda, Trump worked diplomatic back channels to find a way out of a potential war scenario. This latest fact reported by the WSJ shows once again that the neocon wing of Trump’s administration manipulated the US President in his decision to take out Soleimani.


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Via Zerohedge…

Even as Trump was rage-tweeting on Jan 4, two days after the killing of Iran’s top military leader Qassem Soleimani, that he would hit 52 targets including Iranian heritage sites for potential retaliation if America suffered losses following an Iranian attack, warning that “those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD”, the US president was busy, secretly using an encrypted back-channel to bring the world back from the brink of war.

As the WSJ reports, just hours after the U.S. strike which killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Trump administration sent an urgent back channel message to Tehran: “Don’t escalate.” The encrypted fax message was sent via the Swiss Embassy in Iran, one of the few means of direct, confidential communication between the two sides, U.S. officials told the WSJ. Then, in frantic attempts to de-escalate even as top US and Iranian leaders were stirring patriotic sentiment and nationalistic fervor, the White House and Iranian leaders exchanged further messages in the days that followed, which officials in both countries described as far more measured than the fiery rhetoric traded publicly by politician.

It worked: a week later, and after a retaliatory, if highly theatrical, Iranian missile attack on two military bases hosting American troops that purposefully inflicted no casualties, Washington and Tehran have stepped back from the brink of open hostilities (for now).

“We don’t communicate with the Iranians that much, but when we do the Swiss have played a critical role to convey messages and avoid miscalculation,” a senior U.S. official said.

While a spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations declined to comment on the exchanges, he said “we appreciate [the Swiss] for any efforts they make to provide an efficient channel to exchange letters when and if necessary.” Another Iranian official said the back channel provided a welcome bridge, when all others had been burned: “In the desert, even a drop of water matters.”

In retrospect, it should hardly be a surprise that the perpetually neutral Swiss were the last recourse to prevent potential war.

As the WSJ notes, from the Swiss Embassy, a Shah-era mansion overlooking Tehran, the country’s role as a diplomatic intermediary has stretched through four turbulent decades and seven presidencies, from the hostage crisis under Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama’s nuclear deal. But it was seldom tested like this.

Here’s how it happened.

The first American fax was sent immediately after Washington confirmed the death of Soleimani, the most important figure in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the U.S. officials said. It arrived on a special encrypted fax machine in a sealed room of the Swiss mission – the most enduring, and secret, method since the 1979 Islamic Revolution – for the White House to exchange messages with Iran’s top leadership, especially when the two nations are concurrently parading in public media in their bellicose propaganda to earn political brownie points.

The equipment operates on a secure Swiss government network linking its Tehran embassy to the Foreign Ministry in Bern and its embassy in Washington, say Swiss diplomats. Only the most senior officials have the key cards needed to use the equipment.

Early on Friday morning, just hours after Soleimani’s death, Swiss Ambassador Markus Leitner, a 53-year-old career diplomat, delivered the American message by hand to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Predictably, Zarif responded to the U.S. missive with anger, according to a WSJ source: “[U.S. Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo is a bully,” he said, according to one U.S. official briefed on Zarif’s response. “The U.S. is the cause of all the problems.”

The US may indeed be the cause of all the problems, but it also has all the weapons, and despite the pompous rhetoric, Iran knew full well it could not hope to escalte in tit-for-tat fashion without risking virtually everything. Which is why, Iran was quick to take advantage of Leitner’s mediation.

The Swiss ambassador – who regularly visits Washington for closed-door sessions with Pentagon, State Department and intelligence officials eager to tap his knowledge about Iran’s opaque and fluid politics – spent the next several days after Soleimani’s killing shuttling back and forth in a low-key but high-wire diplomatic mission designed to let each side speak candidly. It was a vivid contrast to the jabs of President Trump and Mr. Zarif on Twitter.

Shortly after Trump tweeted on Jan 4 that the US had picked 52 Iranian targets for eventual escalation, Zarif responded just as belligerently on the next day: “A reminder to those hallucinating about emulating ISIS war crimes by targeting our cultural heritage,” he wrote. “Through MILLENNIA of history, barbarians have come and ravaged our cities, razed our monuments and burnt our libraries. Where are they now? We’re still here, & standing tall.”

However, at the same time as Zarif was seeking to emulate Trump’s twitter bluster, the Iranian foreign minister called the Swiss ambassador to take a message to the U.S. It was more restrained, and subsequent statements from both sides helped prevent miscalculations, the officials said.

“When tensions with Iran were high, the Swiss played a useful and reliable role that both sides appreciated,” said a senior Trump administration official. “Their system is like a light that never turns off.” Unlike Twitter, that is, which has emerged a medium for spreading premeditated, fake, outrage to mass consumption and whose sole purpose is to distract from what is truly happening behind the scenes.

It’s not the first time the Swiss have helped pull back the middle east from the brink of mushroom clouds: they have served as messengers between Washington and Tehran since 1980, in the wake of the seizure of the American Embassy—and 52 hostages —in Tehran by Iranian revolutionaries. Swiss diplomats call the role the “brieftrager” or “the postman.”

In the years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Swiss shepherded messages to help avoid direct clashes. When President Obama assumed office, Switzerland hosted the talks that led to a nuclear deal. When Washington lifted sanctions, Swiss businesses had an early jump on rivals.  When Trump reimposed sanctions, he gave the Swiss a phone number to pass the Iranians, saying: “I’d like to see them call me.”

So far, Tehran has continued to speak through the Swiss.

Why has this archaic method of communication proven so effective at pulling the world back from the edge of crisis?

Former Swiss ambassadors say the diplomatic channel is effective because the U.S. and Iran can trust a message will remain confidential, be delivered quickly, and will reach only its intended recipients. Statements passed on the back channel are always precisely phrased, diplomatic, and free of emotion, something which is clearly impossible on Trump’s favorite social media platform, twitter, which he uses for precisely the opposite purpose: to spark outrage and to appeal to base emotions of his core supporter group.

Switzerland, a landlocked country of nine million with no standing army where everyone owns a gun, parlays its role as the world’s neutral “postman” (and until recently, secret banker) to lever access to the great powers.

And speaking of Swiss bank, the WSJ notes that currently Swiss diplomats are working to get Washington’s green light for Swiss banks to finance exports to Iran that aren’t subject to sanctions—like food and medicine. “We do things for the world community, and it’s good,” said a former ambassador. “But it is also good for our interests.” Of course it is: for the privilege of funding the most basic human needs, those same Swiss banks can charge exorbitant rates of interest in a country that for years has had a negative official interest rate.

Iran isn’t the only geopolitical hot spot where the Swiss Embassy represents U.S. or other countries’ interests after the breakdown of diplomatic relations: the Swiss now holds six mandates including representing Iran in Saudi Arabia, Georgia in Russia and Turkey in Libya and the U.S. in Cuba according to the WSJ. In April 2019, the Trump administration asked Bern to represent it in Venezuela but President Nicolás Maduro’s government has yet to approve.

And so, if the world has any hope of avoiding an all out war between US and Iran, it will have to go through Bern, at least figuratively. As tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated, the Swiss backchannel has remained active. In December the two countries released prisoners at the same time at a special hangar in the Zurich airport – U.S. special envoy on Iran Brian Hook and Iran’s Zarif sat in separate rooms as the Swiss directed the carefully choreographed exchange.

“The Swiss channel has become enormously important because of what they can do in the short term to lessen tensions,” said former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who worked with the Swiss on the prisoner exchange. “It’s the only viable channel right now.”

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Sally Snyder
Sally Snyder
January 13, 2020

Here is a look back in time at how the United States acted in 1988 when it shot down an Iranian civilian aircraft:

https://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-uss-vincennes-and-missing.html

Brokenspine66
Brokenspine66
Reply to  Sally Snyder
January 13, 2020

The USS Vincennes shot the Iranian plane down ‘Deliberately’ – murdered 290 souls – to provoke Iran to attack the US-Navy vessel, but they didn’t take the bait and avoided the trap, the reason was simply their proxy war against Iran (’80-’88) carried out by their man Saddam just failed big time. The commander of the USS Vincennes was awarded for the act of terrorism + massmurder.

Smoking Eagle
Smoking Eagle
Reply to  Sally Snyder
January 13, 2020

More here from the Yale Journal of International Law: “Iran Air Flight 655 and Beyond: Free Passage, Mistaken Self-Defense, and State Responsibility”
https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1577&context=yjil

Brokenspine66
Brokenspine66
January 13, 2020

My question is, who talked + manipulated Trump into to this quagmire? After this fuck-up he tries to de-escalate but damage is done.

Bending the Red Line
Bending the Red Line
Reply to  Brokenspine66
January 13, 2020

Israeli interests are slowly coming into major conflict with the American public.

Brokenspine66
Brokenspine66
Reply to  Bending the Red Line
January 13, 2020

It seams the Neocons + Christian-Rights collaboration with the Israelis interests too.

SteveK9
SteveK9
Reply to  Brokenspine66
January 13, 2020

You don’t seem to realize that Neocons == Jewish Americans.

American Pie
American Pie
Reply to  SteveK9
January 14, 2020

70% Jewish, 20% WASP oligarchs, 10% Evangelical nutjobs like Pompeo & Pence to carry water.

SteveK9
SteveK9
January 13, 2020

I think you guys are a little too forgiving of the Donald. Why get out of the JCPOA in the first place? Trump is simply not very smart, otherwise he could see how destructive the Jewish Lobby is to the real interests of the United States. They gave him money, but he had his own money, and could raise plenty without them. Almost the only good thing about Obama was that he resisted the lobby and signed the JCPOA. Of course the fact that they openly despised him (take a look at Nutty’s speech to Congress) made it easier for… Read more »

St. Longinus
St. Longinus
Reply to  SteveK9
January 14, 2020

If by “resisting the lobby” you mean droning the crap out of all kinds of people over his 8 years in office, killing Quaddafi and destroying Libya, and doing a job of trying to destroy Syria, then I guess you’re correct…..Obama “resisted the lobby”. As far as I know, and I’m not defending Trump because he can do that himself, the only person Trump is directly responsible for killing is Soleimani. Iran isn’t going to do anything because they know if they even attempt something on a large scale Israel will clobber them and make it appear someone else did… Read more »

SteveK9
SteveK9
Reply to  St. Longinus
January 20, 2020

E3 announces it will activate the DRM of the JCPOA (under threat of 25% tariffs on European auto sales to the US), and Iran responds that if this moves forward they will withdraw from the NPT. Does that sound like ‘escalation’ to you?

Calling a Spade a Spade
Calling a Spade a Spade
Reply to  SteveK9
January 14, 2020

You don’t understand the NYC real estate racket. The Jews OWN Trump. And I’m not an anti-semite, I’m just sick and tired of the whole racket when it morphs into the international arena. Nutty has an orgasm every time the WH phone rings now. Nothing good about it. Nothing at all.

Vera Gottlieb
Vera Gottlieb
January 13, 2020

Yanks…time has come for you folks to go home and stay home. You have created enough mayhem all over the globe. You’ve got more than enough that needs cleaning up in your own backyard.

Smoking Eagle
Smoking Eagle
Reply to  Vera Gottlieb
January 13, 2020

No kidding! The US is worse now than it was four years ago. In 2016, as another presidential election approached, Americans were able to claim the following distinctions: • One in six were taking prescription psychiatric drugs such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds. • More than 16 million adults and more than 3 million adolescents were suffering from significant depression. • More than 1.9 million Americans were regularly using cocaine, with a half million hooked on heroin and 700,000 on methamphetamine. • That year opioid overdoses killed 46,000, a new record. • Binge drinking had reached epidemic proportions, with one… Read more »

Brokenspine66
Brokenspine66
Reply to  Smoking Eagle
January 13, 2020

Trump doesn’t caused this, this development is going on for decades…..but Trump speed up the downfall + desintergration of the rotten corrupt rogue US Mafia/Terrorist Empire Regime….and the implosion of US society is just collateral damage…because the US Elites + Oligarchs give a shit.

Smoking Eagle
Smoking Eagle
Reply to  Brokenspine66
January 13, 2020

Trump might not have caused it but, as you point out, he’s done plenty to make the situation far worse within the borders of that exceptionally disgusting, corrupt, rotten, terrorist regime, and he’s also done brilliantly in promoting anti-americanism around the world. Mind you, on the plus side, Trump has also provided comedy shows with endless material.

Smoking Eagle
Smoking Eagle
January 13, 2020

If Trump is so smart, why did he not anticipate what would happen if he gave the order to murder General Soleimani? A little precautionary forethought would have been so much better than creating a major incident which caused death and mayhem, and then following it up with de-escalation.

Trump has wisdom? Really? I’ve yet to see any.

Thraxite
Thraxite
Reply to  Smoking Eagle
January 14, 2020

Listening to his latest statements, shows he just can’t shut up and must respond no matter how trivial the slight against him reinforcing the old adage of “Its’ better to shut up and be thought a fool, than open your mouth and be proven one”. He, as you state is a total idiot and always has been, thank the gods that he was voted in rather than that human piece of excrement Hillary Clinton though.

Thraxite
Thraxite
January 14, 2020

A good article except for two points, 1. The US is a paper tiger, its’ tech is now 2 generations out of date and its’ air defense is probably 3 generations behind. The US hasn’t changed its Order of Battle and tactics in 70 years so that too is outdated. The USs new tech doesn’t work yet is still accepted into the forces and the drop in quality of troops can be seen by listening to how scared its’ troops sounded when under fire. 2. It was not a US led invasion of Iraq, it was an US led ILLEGAL… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
January 14, 2020

Thank you, Switzerland! I love Switzerland! It is such a wonderful, brave little country.

Smoking Eagle
Smoking Eagle
January 14, 2020

And now it is at least a good possibility that the shooting down of the aircraft was orchestrated and therefore deliberate. I hope the Iranian government hears about this and watches the video embedded in the article here: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/52846-c.htm

It's MY oil and I want it NOW
It's MY oil and I want it NOW
January 14, 2020

I assume they used a direct front-channel to the Saudis, warning them to in future, never dare even think about throwing out any peace-feelers to Iran.

Brokenspine66
Brokenspine66
Reply to  It's MY oil and I want it NOW
January 14, 2020

I assume the Israeli ZioNAZIs used a direct front-channel to the AmeriCunts + NeoCunts, giving them the intel + all sorts of fabricated lies + reasons for murdering Qassem Soleimani and the accompanying persons, because they wanted him dead but cowardly prefer the US do the dirty work.

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