More details have begun to emerge about Iran’s ballistic missile attack on two Iraqi bases Tuesday, including what was reportedly going on behind the scenes almost immediately after the strikes. According to CNN’s sources, soon after the strikes were over, Iran reached out to the U.S. “through at least three back channels” to make clear that their “fierce revenge” for the killing of Iran’s top military leader was over.
“Iran initiated contact through at least three back channels starting late Tuesday, including through Switzerland and other countries,” CNN reports. “There were ‘multiple messages and they were all the same,’ a person familiar with the matter said. Iran wanted to convey their retaliatory action had ended — and was waiting to see how the US would respond.”
“The back-and-forth communication came as American officials were still determining the extent of the Iranian attacks, and were formulating plans for a response,” the network explains. “In response, the US sought to communicate to Iran that its proxies in the region were of equal concern as the activities of the Iranian state, the person familiar said.”
The Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed in a statement that its diplomatic channel has been used multiple times prior to the incident Tuesday to exchange messages between the U.S. and Iran and urged “maximum restraint” from both sides.
“Switzerland is deeply concerned about the heavy tensions between the U.S. and Iran and the latest cycle of violent confrontations in Iraq,” the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement reported by CNN. “We call on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid any further escalation. Switzerland stands ready to support initiatives of the international community that seek de-escalation in the region.”
Along with reportedly communicating through back channels that it sought to de-escalate, Iran’s foreign minister issued a public statement Tuesday night indicating that the strikes would be the only military actions the regime undertook for the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, head of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
“Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted after the attack Tuesday night. “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
As CNN notes, some Trump administration officials increasingly believe that Iran deliberately missed areas populated by U.S. personnel.
Trump revealed in his televised statement Wednesday that “no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime.”
“We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases,” said the president, adding later, “No American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken, the dispersal of forces, and an early warning system that worked very well.”
Trump also announced that Iran appeared to be “standing down,” which he described as “a good thing for all parties concerned, and a very good thing for the world.”
In the address, the president announced new economic sanctions on Iran that would be imposed “immediately.” He also made clear that the status quo from Iran in the region was unacceptable.
“For far too long, all the way back to 1979, to be exact, nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilizing behavior in the Middle East. Those days are over,” Trump asserted. “Iran has been the leading state sponsor of terrorism, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world. We will never let that happen.”