Posted by: Dr Churchill | January 10, 2020

I really don’t give a Fax about this Iran thing…

Retro technology rocks.

Retro-tech, the stuff that the Neo-Luddites love, like steampunk, off grid grow your own food living, and kill your own animals, and even goth cosplaying with re-enactments of ancient wars — will surely entertain you, because these things are time intensive activities that give meaning and fulfillment to some peoples’ lives — but did you know that our President is a Neo-Luddite too?

Got you there — didn’t I?

Am sure you are stumped by this revelation, but even for a sworn Luddite residing in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to go from ordering a rather complex weapons carrying Boeing drone to successfully target & train-down a massive missile on the head of a Chief Arch-Terrorist in the environs of Bagdad airport — to get back to the 1980’s retro-tech of the fax machine, in the space of a couple of days, is a monumental achievement. And yet that is apparently what Trump did over the last week or so…

Obviously our Supreme Leader, means it, when he says that he wants to Make America Great Again — like in the good old day.

He will surely make America great again, by revisiting the 80s and reutilizing their long gone high technology … of the Fax machine.

Next up, carrier pigeons …

For diplomacy.

Oh God — please spare me for “Fax” sake…

But on a serious geopolitical note — as you would expect from the mind of a Churchill — the timeline of the provocative tit-for-tat events that led us to this moment of a fortuitous lull of hostilities between the US and Iran — truly spans a long time.

As for the timing of all this coming to a boil — it took a few years, but it was all quite predictable, as seen bellow in the carefully organized chart of sequential events, of the last couple of years of President Trump learning the ropes of his office… and roaring at the top of his lungs to no one in particular, except to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats and he is using the Iraq-Iran crisis as his megaphone.

Am just showing you the way, because Iran’s missile attack on two American bases in Iraq didn’t come out of the blue, but instead it all came in response to the droning of Soleimani that didn’t just happen because he was on a junket in Bagdad and the US decided to strike Iran’s top military general. This whole thing is in the offing since 2016, and it is actually the culmination of more than three years of steadily rising tensions, especially, since President Donald Trump withdrew from 2015 Iran nuclear deal with the World’s powers.

Indeed, the two countries are now engaged in their most serious confrontation since the 1979 Islamic revolution and takeover of the US Embassy of Teheran, yet today both sides have signaled restraint following the missile attacks against American & Iraqi bases inside Iraq, and the “accidental” downing of an Iranian jetliner full of civilians and many Canadian people by the air defenses of Iran — right after takeoff at the airport in Teheran, but the threat of an all-out war remains a distant nightmare …

At least for now.

A timeline of the main events leading up to this week’s hostilities goes as following:

May 8, 2018: Trump announces that the U.S. is withdrawing from the nuclear deal signed by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, which had provided sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and stepped-up U.N. monitoring. Over the next several months, the U.S. ratchets up sanctions, exacerbating an economic crisis in Iran.

___

Nov. 5, 2018: U.S. imposes tough sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, the lifeline of its economy, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces a list of 12 demands it must meet for sanctions relief. Iran rejects the wide-ranging demands, which include ending its support for armed groups in the region, withdrawing from the Syrian civil war and halting its ballistic missile program.

___

May 5, 2019: The U.S. announces the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” without providing details. It threatens “unrelenting force” in response to any attack.

___

May 8, 2019: Iran vows to enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels if world powers fail to negotiate new terms for its nuclear deal. The European Union urges Iran to respect the nuclear deal and says it plans to continue trading with the country. Trump says he would like Iran’s leaders to “call me.”

___

May 12, 2019: The United Arab Emirates says four commercial ships off its eastern coast “were subjected to sabotage operations.”. Trump warns that if Tehran does “anything” in the form of an attack, “they will suffer greatly.”

___

June 13, 2019: Two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz are hit in an alleged assault that leaves one ablaze and adrift as 44 sailors are evacuated from both vessels and the U.S. Navy rushes to assist. America later blames Iran for the attack, something Tehran denies.

___

June 20, 2019: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shoots down a U.S. military surveillance drone. Trump says he called off a planned retaliatory strike on Iran over concerns about casualties.

___

July 1, 2019: Iran follows through on a threat to exceed the limit set by the nuclear deal on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, which is used for civilian applications and not for nuclear weapons.

___

Sept. 14, 2019: A drone attack on Saudi oil facilities temporarily cuts off half the oil supplies of the world’s largest producer, causing a spike in prices. The U.S. says Iran carried out the attack directly, calling it an “act of war” against Saudi Arabia. Iran denies involvement, while the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claim responsibility.

___

October 2019: Massive anti-government protests erupt in Lebanon and Iraq. While the protests are primarily driven by economic grievances, they target governments that are closely allied to Iran. In Iraq, protesters openly decry Tehran’s influence and attack Iranian diplomatic facilities.

___

November 2019: Protests break out in some 100 cities and towns in Iran after authorities raise the price of gasoline. The scale of the protests and the resulting crackdown are hard to determine as authorities shut down the internet for several days. Amnesty International later estimates that more than 300 people were killed.

___

Dec. 7, 2019:  An American freed by Iran in prisoner exchange … has been freed after the Trump administration agreed to a prisoner exchange with Teheran. The communications channel for this was the Swiss diplomatic FAX machines that effectively managed the exchange agreement between the two warring sides. The American graduate student was imprisoned in Teheran Iran, for more than three years and has now been freed after the Trump administration agreed to a prisoner exchange with Tehran. This was accomplished in a simultaneous release of both American Xiyue Wang, and the Iranian stem cell scientist Masoud Soleimani, who was held in the United States on charges of violating American sanctions on Iran, because of his purchase of recombinant proteins, and it comes at a moment of exceptionally high tensions between Iran and the United States. This prisoner swap took place in Switzerland, and unlikely as it may seem — did not lead to any further thaw in the relationship of the two countries, although it offered some measure of hope for other Americans imprisoned in Iran, as well for some Iranian prisoners of the US.

___

Dec. 27, 2019: A US contractor is killed and several American and Iraqi troops are wounded in a rocket attack on a base in northern Iraq. The United States blames the attack on Kataeb Hezbollah, one of several Iran-backed militias operating in Iraq.

___

Dec. 29, 2019: US airstrikes hit Kataeb Hezbollah positions in Iraq and Syria, killing at least 25 fighters and bringing vows of revenge. Iraq calls the strikes a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty.

___

Dec. 31, 2019: Hundreds of Iran-backed militiamen and their supporters barge through an outer barrier of the US Embassy in Baghdad and hold two days of violent protests in which they smash windows, set fires and hurl rocks over the inner walls. US Marines guarding the facility respond with tear gas. There are no casualties on either side.

___

Jan. 3: A US airstrike near Baghdad’s international airport kills Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the mastermind of its regional military interventions. A senior commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq is also killed in the strike. Iran vows “harsh retaliation.” Trump says he ordered the targeted killing to prevent a major attack. Congressional leaders and close US allies say they were not consulted on the strike, which many fear could ignite a war.

___

Jan. 5: Iran announces it will no longer abide by the nuclear deal and Iraq’s parliament holds a non-binding vote calling for the expulsion of all US forces. Some 5,200 American troops are based in Iraq to help prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group. Trump vows to impose sanctions on Iraq if it expels US troops.

___

Jan. 8: Iran launches several ballistic missiles on two bases in Iraq housing American troops in what it says is retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. There are no immediate reports of US or Iraqi casualties. Trump tweets that “All is well!” and says he will deliver a statement Wednesday. Iran’s supreme leader says “we slapped them on the face” but that “military action is not enough.”

___

Jan. 9th: An Ukrainian jetliner taking off from the Teheran airport, was targeted by Iranian air defenses and attacked by a missile battery that caused it to be destroyed in mid-air, and then the wreckage crashed back on earth near Teheran, early Wednesday, in the morning hours after Iran had launched massive missile attacks against two Iraqi military bases housing American troops. Iran has now admitted that it mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet on Wednesday, blaming human error and “US adventurism” for the crash, as Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for measures to prevent similar accidents in the future amid heightened tensions and military alertness. However this is a little too late for the victims, that number 176 people who died in the crash, including: 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three British nationals… all innocent victims of the amateurish way the Iranian military plies its trade. Apparently, bazar merchants, unschooled teenagers, and highly untrained operators, are the drafted people that pretend to be professional soldiers that are manning the missile batteries of the Iranian Air-Defense systems and that is the freaking outcome…
Scores of dead civilians thanks to the clowns of Iran’s leadership.

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___

And as if that wasn’t enough — here comes the FAX machine…

Because this ancient telecommunication instrument was used recently, by the US to communicate with the Iranians — via the Swiss diplomatic mission’s fax machine in Bern and Teheran — for the December scientist prisoner exchange, and also just now for the current de-escalation of the US-Iran conflagration.

This tidbit of yesterday’s tech use, reminded me of the pivotal role that the old trusty Fax machine has played past as well as it has played during this time of conflicts and troubles all around.

Indeed, according to highly placed US sources: “The Swiss diplomatic fax, as a back channel of communications, has become enormously important because of what it can do in the short term, to lessen tensions. In fact it is the only viable channel right now.”

Same as the Swiss cuckoo clock, that has been keeping up generations of people who for some unknown reason, like to have Swiss time technology in their homes, along with the infamous fondue machines gathering dust in their kitchen cabinets, alongside all other kits, and kitsh-stuff, that represent retro tech’s resurgence.

Kind-a-like the Disco lights and the 80s M.C.Hammer breakdance & EDM music, that are staging a comeback along with M.C. Hammer’s harem pants, and the inimitable breakdance moves of Michael Jackson. Those are also the moves of Donald Trump’s pinnacle as a dancer in the Manhattan nightclubs. Moonwalking and all … the guy is most likely sleepwalking his way to Studio 64 all over again.

But, I digress…

Because this article is about another aspect of the character of this creature of the 80s. This is about the personality of the Real Estate mogul & developer, who has a true affinity for messenger boys, fax machines, and other outdated technology, like Twitter. And since President Trump, had much to say both via Twitter and via FAX, at the same time — we have new knowledge about the brewing kerfuffle, or rather the stormy conflict in the tea cup, that seems to have been resolved via fax machine, right when the US was having a melee with the Theocratic regime of Iran.

And this is the highlight if not the Twilight of the Fax Machine era, and of the US-Iran conflict which was recently solved — wait for it — you guessed it, by fax.

As a matter of fact, (or fax) the conflict was solved by careful applications of “FAX” technology, because at the same time that Trump was apparently rage-tweeting on Jan 4th, two days after the killing of Iran’s top military leader Qassem Soleimani, when Prez Donald Trump, was tweeting that he would hit 52 major 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 secretly busy, using an encrypted back-channel through Switzerland, in order to bring the world back from the brink of war.

So was it all a Psy-Op for the benefit of the US president and his endangered “rump” because of the issues stemming from the ungovernable impeachment mad and power hungry masses of the representatives of the peasants, the plebs and the pols, all residing at the lower levels of Congress, like the old beasts of the Roman arena at the Colosseum?

Or was it a well thought out Presidential act, like Trump supporter and confidante, Aussie puccoon-journalist magnate and owner of the Wall Street Journal reported, that just hours after the US strike which killed Iranian Major General and Master Terrorist, Qassem Soleimani, “The Trump administration sent an urgent back channel message to Tehran, saying: Don’t escalate.”

The encrypted fax message was sent via Switzerland’s capital Bern to the Swiss Embassy in Iran, and then hand delivered to the Iranian leadership through Iran’s Foreign Minister. As a matter of fact, this fax machine method of communications, is one of the few means of direct, confidential communication between the two sides, as top US diplomatic officials told the Wall Street Journal reporters. So this fax machine telecommunications was used effectively on numerous times, as was this week, when, in a series of frantic attempts to de-escalate the tensions — the two warring sides communicated — even as top US and Iranian leaders were stirring patriotic sentiment and nationalistic fervor on their respective sides of the “church & mosque.”

To be sure, the White House and the Iranian leaders exchanged several further messages in the days that followed, which officials in both countries described as far more measured, than the fiery rhetoric that was traded publicly by the erstwhile politicians and nominal leaders of both nations.

Playing Nice…

Playing nice, was not supposed to be part of Trump’s repertoire, and not that of the Iranian Ayatollahs either — and yet both of them played nice, both for our benefit and for our slight edification, just now.

Isn’t it NICE to play nice?

“Playing Nice” like the uber-nice Swiss diplomats and like the nice Swiss ambassador to Iran, Markus Leitner, who helped transfer these fax messages between the US and Iranian leadership directly to the Ayatollah’s mouth like a nice little messenger boy.

And as it turns out this type of fax & messenger boy diplomacy worked, because a week later, and after a minor retaliatory, and highly theatrical Iranian missile attack on two Iraqi military bases hosting American troops — in missile attacks that purposefully inflicted no casualties — Washington and Teheran have stepped back from the brink of open hostilities and are reimagining PEACE and purposeful Co-Existence amongst them.

Nice…

A Senior US official had this to say to the WSJ reporters: “We don’t communicate with the Iranians that much, but when we do the Swiss fax machines have always played a critical role to convey messages and avoid miscalculation.”

And while a spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations declined to comment on the fax 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 public official said that the fax channel provided a welcome bridge, when all other bridges 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 and their tried and true technology of the fax machine, were the last and the best communication recourse, used to prevent the potential war between Iran and the United States.

And as the WSJ notes, from the Swiss Embassy, a Shah-era mansion overlooking Teheran, Switzerland’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, and now to the era of the Trumpster fire burning at the White House.

But the Swiss fax machine was never tested like this, before this minute by minute de-escalation.

And here is the play by play account of 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.

Screen Shot 2020-01-10 at 7.03.15 PM

This bespoke fax equipment operates on a secure Swiss government network linking its Tehran embassy to the Foreign Ministry of Switzerland in its capital city Bern, with its embassy in Washington. Thus say the soft spoken and fondue eating quiet Swiss diplomats. Apparently only the most senior officials have the key cards needed to use the fax equipment, and the junior staff are not allowed to steal fax paper rolls for other uses such as when the toilet runs out of paper, or then they need to write a fresh caves d Qumran message for the ages…

Back in the jungle, and in the early hours of Friday morning, just a few hours after Soleimani’s death-by-drive-by-drone, Swiss Ambassador Markus Leitner, delivered the American fax message, by hand, to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Predictably, Zarif responded to the US fax missive saying that “US President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are bullies, and that is why America is the cause of all these problems.”

Now, there might be some truth to that statement, and even if we admit that the US may indeed be the cause of all the problems — it also has all of the advanced weapons. So despite the pompous rhetoric, Iran knew full well that it could not hope to escalate in tit-for-tat fashion without risking virtually everything going up in flames.

Which is why, Iran was fairly quick to take advantage of Leitner’s mediation and to counter the US response by another fax.

The Swiss ambassador Markus Leitner – who regularly visits Washington for closed door assignations and sessions with Pentagon along with 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.

Indeed, the two combatant’s communication back channel by fax and messenger, was a quiet, yet vivid contrast to the public jabs of President Trump and Mr Zarif on Twitter and on the Reuters news service, and on all of the news networks.

Because shortly after Trump tweeted on Jan 4th 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 the Iranian foreign minister Zarif was seeking to emulate Trump’s twitter bluster, he called the Swiss ambassador in Teheran Markus Leitner, to take and fax a message to the US that was far more restrained, and this led to a fluid exchange of subsequent more mellow secret statements from both sides. It was these simple fax statements, that helped prevent errors, trigger happy responses, and miscalculations, by the militaries of the warring nations, according to the officials of both sides.

A Senior Trump administration official said: “When tensions with Iran were high, the Swiss played a useful and reliable role that both sides appreciated. Their system is like a light that never turns off.”

That is in full contrast to the Twitter shouting and outrageous claims, which has emerged as a medium for spreading premeditated, fake, outrage, for mass consumption and whose sole purpose is to distract from what is truly happening behind the scenes.

And of course, it is not the first time the Swiss have helped pull back the warring tribes of the Middle East from the brink of mushroom clouds… Because indeed, they have served as messengers between Washington and Teheran many times since they started this fax machine back channel, in 1980, in the wake of the seizure of the American Embassy, and the 52 diplomats that became hostages in Teheran, at the hands of the Iranian revolutionaries, after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran.

Since then, the humorless Swiss diplomats call their role the “brieftrager,” or “the postman” in earnest.

I call them the shepherds of the fax machine messages, because since the years after the US 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, and thus when Washington lifted Iran’s sanctions, the Swiss businessmen had an early jump on rivals. When Trump reimposed sanctions, he gave the Swiss a phone number to pass to the Iranians, saying: “I’d like to see them call me.”

I can reveal that number in a world exclusive, and it is the (202) 456-1111 telephone & fax number, where you can send your own loopy & looping fax messages too.

No wonder — so far — Teheran has continued to communicate through the Swiss fax machine back channel.

Yet one wonders, why has this archaic method of communication proven so effective at pulling the world back from the edge of crisis and from the brink of war?

Former Swiss ambassadors say the diplomatic channel is effective because the US and Iran can both trust that 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, which he uses for precisely the opposite purpose, in order to spark outrage, and in order to appeal to the base reptilian brain emotions of his core supporters & to the groups of pugilistic sycophants all around him.

By contrast, Switzerland, is a landlocked country of nine million people, with no standing army and yet it is a country where everyone is given military training since the time of William Tell, and after heir training they are all given a military rifle, and bullets by the government, and are required to participate in monthly military weekend-long exercises. This militancy and the banker’s unavoidable seriousness, along with the boring nature of all the Swiss, is what helps this small nations’ diplomats, to play their role as the world’s neutral “fax machine postmen, middle-men, and bankers” in order to lever access to the great powers and to the lesser powers out there.

And apparently the Swiss also have a good way of keeping the old fax machines like their cuckoo clocks and their fondue sets, all well oiled, and fully operational.

Darn it, can anyone please tell me, where is it that I have misplaced my trusty old fax machine, that was a telephone and a computer modem and a fax with printer and scanner, all in one?

Methinks that I should definitely find my old fax machine, reclaim it from the tip, and reinstall it with a Swiss number.

Because seriously now…

Who knows what kind of messages I might receive?

Maybe the looping cavorting nudes of the 1980s coming out as dirty Disney cartoon sequences?

Or something of a more recent vintage.

Like Iran’s latest entreaties by fax, to Donald Trump to build a TRUMP Casino-Hotel inside the ruins of the old palace of Persepolis, for the use of the waves of Chinese tourists soon to be flocking to Iran?

We’ll see…

Yours,

Dr Churchill

PS:

And speaking of Swiss banks, and bankers, they need to be paid for their efforts, because nothing in this world is free of charge, especially in Switzerland.

So in order for the Good Bankers to be able to put fondue on the table — the WSJ notes that currently Swiss diplomats are “politely asking” the President in Washington, to give the green light for Swiss banks to finance exports to Iran that aren’t subject to sanctions — like food and medicine.

A former Swiss ambassador had this to say: “We do things for the world community, and it’s good. But it is also good for our interests.”

Of course it is, because for the privilege of funding the most basic human needs, those same Swiss banks can charge exorbitant rates of interest to the impoverished country of Iran, that for years has had a negative official interest rate.

Yet, 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 USA in Cuba, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Back, in April of 2019, the Trump administration asked the Swiss, to represent us in our disputes with Venezuela but President Nicolás Maduro’s government has yet to approve this back channel communication method.

And so, if the world has any hope of avoiding an all out war between the US and Iran, it will have to go through the Swiss fax machine, at least figuratively, because as tensions between Washington and Tehran escalate, the Swiss backchannel has remained active.

Again, back in December when the two countries released prisoners at the same time at a special hangar in the Zurich airport – the US special envoy on Iran Brian Hook and Iran’s Zarif sat in separate rooms of the same hangar, as the Swiss police carefully directed the well orchestrated and minutely choreographed exchange…

So from now on I will rename & count my fax machine “Swiss Fax” and expect that it will work hard for Global Peace and along the way generate massive amounts of revenue and goodwill for All…

PEACE ON EARTH is the call sign of my Fax machine in case you are wondering how to reach me…

Go search that one and Have a Happy new Year in the balance too.

And please don’t give too many “faxs” about the psychos and the psychops of Washington and Teheran, because both of them will pass, as soon as the 80s call, and ask for their Fax machines and their mannequins, back.

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These guys are made for each other.

Cheers

PPS:

In our next installment we shall examine how President Trump will make America Great Again and at the same time avoid Global Nuclear Armageddon, through carrier pigeons and smoke signals between the US and North Korea.

I wish him Good Luck with that … and by the way, Donald, please send me a FAX and let me know how it all worked out for you.

Thanks a Million.


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