WASHINGTON: The Trump administration used an urgent back channel – the Swiss Embassy – to communicate with Tehran at the peak of the Iran-US crisis, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Saturday.

The communication began “hours after a US strike killed Iranian Maj Gen Qassem Soleimani” in Baghdad last week, the newspaper reported, adding, the message was simple: “Don’t escalate.”

“The encrypted fax was sent via the Swiss Embassy in Iran, one of the few means of direct, confidential communication between the two sides.”

According to the report, the White House and Iranian leaders exchanged further messages, which officials in both countries “described as far more measured than the fiery rhetoric traded publicly by politicians.”

The communication did not stop even after retaliatory Iranian missile attack on two Iraqi military bases hosting American troops. Noting that there were no casualties in the hose attacks, the report added that by then “Washington and Tehran seemed to be stepping back from the brink of open hostilities,” at least for now.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2020