Report: US-Iran tensions calmed with help of Swiss ‘back channel’

The Trump administration’s “urgent message” to the Iranian leadership was to the point: “Don’t escalate.”

By World Israel News Staff 

The U.S. employed a “back channel” via Switzerland’s embassy in Tehran to relay a message that helped defuse the U.S.-Iran crisis in the hours following the American airstrike on January 3, which killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

The Trump administration’s “urgent message” to the Iranian leadership was to the point: “Don’t escalate,” says the American newspaper.

It cites U.S. officials as its source in reporting that “the encrypted fax was sent via the Swiss Embassy in Iran, one of the few means of direct, confidential communication between the two sides.”

“In the absence of diplomatic or consular relations of the United States of America with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Swiss government, acting through its Embassy in Tehran, serves as the Protecting Power of the USA in Iran since 21 May 1980,” says a page of the embassy’s Foreign Interests Section on a Swiss government website.

The Swiss took on that role amid the hostage crisis, from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981, when 52 American diplomats and citizens were held captive  after students who supported the Iranian Islamic Revolution stormed and took control of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

The U.S. message to Iran, after the targeted killing of Soleimani, is said to have been hand-delivered by Swiss Ambassador Markus Leitner to the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Even as the rhetoric continued to fly publicly between Washington and Tehran, with warnings also issued against Israel, behind-the-scenes contacts, through “a flurry of back and forth messages,” in which a more restrained tone was said to have been used, reportedly continued to take place via the Swiss back channel.

The Wall Street Journal quotes a senior Trump administration official as describing the role which the Swiss have played as “useful and reliable,” comparing the conduit which Swiss diplomats provide between American and Iranian officials to “a light that never turns off.”