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World Association of International Studies

PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Trump-IRI Communication through Swiss Intermediaries
Created by John Eipper on 01/14/20 4:57 AM

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Trump-IRI Communication through Swiss Intermediaries (A. J. Cave, USA, 01/14/20 4:57 am)

John E asked about Trump's back-channel communication through the Swiss with the IRI.

There was a fairly detailed piece on January 12th about the recent parlay in the online Wall Street Journal:

Here is the link for those who have a subscription:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/swiss-back-channel-helped-defuse-u-s-iran-crisis-11578702290

There are lots of other online sources as well, with similar information.

Channels of communication:

Using the Swiss as the go-between US and IRI is nothing new. It has been in effect since 1980 when US and IRI broke diplomatic relations, under what is called "protective power mandate." Historically it has been used as a handy confidential channel of "direct" communication between the two countries.

Briefly:

After the Soleimani assassination, the Swiss envoy in Tehran relayed the US message: "Don't escalate!" In response, IRI officials complained about Twitter threats against Iranian sites and called US a bully. After the missile attack on US bases in Iraq, IRI communicated to the US via the Swiss envoy that they were done.

Downing of the Ukrainian plane must have confused all the parties and the IRI's knee-jerk reaction was to deny, deny, deny, until they finally decided to throw some guy (a fictional lone and isolated missile operator) under the bus (or the plane).

Significance:

The significance of the admission is probably lost on the folks not familiar with the history of hostilities between the two countries. In 1988, US Navy shot down an Iran Air passenger flight to Dubai over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people. It was another case of human error. IRI sued, and in 1996, US agreed to pay over $130 million in damages without admitting any wrongdoing. Over the years, IRI has maintained that the tragic accident was intentional. Now, the shoe is on the other foot.

The "lie" by the regime triggered the demonstrations in the streets, just as the demonstrations in Hong Kong were initially triggered by the proposed extradition bill. They signal a host of underlying causes and grievances, and could quickly burn out of control like wildfires.

JE comments:  With today's instantaneous communication, the need for two quarreling nations to communicate through a neutral intermediary is a throwback to the 19th century--or earlier.  If the stakes weren't so high, it would be quaint that diplomacy maintains these venerable traditions.


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  • A Lesson on Usage: Parlay and Parley, Lakes and Seas (David Duggan, USA 01/14/20 8:28 AM)
    Parlay (see A. J. Cave, January 14th) didn't look right and I looked it up. Parley is the conversation. Parlay is a betting maneuver (typically on horse races with win-place-show options).

    I surmise John E didn't like what I had to say about "international waters" in lakes between two sovereigns? (Four of the Great Lakes, lakes along the mid-African ridge [Tanganyika], Geneva.)


    Literally those lakes are "between two nations."


    JE comments: A few days back David Duggan responded to my remark on whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake. I had originally written, "there is no international jurisdiction over a lake." David replied:


    No international jurisdiction over Lakes Superior, Erie, Ontario or Huron? Or the lakes along the borders of the nations on the mid-African ridge?


    Sorry, David!  I had been meaning to reply, but procrastinated.  I wanted to reference the late Bob Gibbs's presentation at WAIS '13, Adrian.  In his analysis of oil politics and pipelines, Bob discussed the real-world implications of whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake.  If the former, then it falls under the jurisdiction of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  If the latter, even if shared by two or more countries, the entirety of the lake can be divided into bordered-off national waters.  As the article below explains, lake or sea is not just a question of sea-mantics:


    https://www.businessdestinations.com/destinations/more-than-sea-mantics-the-legal-status-of-the-caspian-sea/


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  • Par-ley and Par-lay... and Bamboozle (A. J. Cave, USA 01/15/20 4:00 PM)
    A response to David Duggan (January 14th) on my English:

    Admittedly it is awful and gets worse when I write quickly. And there's also that tug of war between various helpful spellchecks offered by Microsoft, Google, Grammerly, and the rest. So, I am always grateful for any corrections or comments. Thanks.


    However:


    In this particular context, I meant parlay, not parley. It wasn't one of those "in the eye of the beholder" cases.


    Let's unpack:


    Both parlay and parley can be used as nouns or verbs.


    As I understand it with my limited English, parley is a conversation (noun) or negotiating or discussing terms (verb) between opposing parties or enemies, in order to reach an agreement. The end game is chattering until you hammer out an agreement, or die trying.


    Whereas parlay is a betting or a gambling (Wall Street) term. It means a series of cumulative winning bets (noun), or using the winnings from a bet to make another bet (verb). The end game is winning over and over. There's nothing to negotiate.


    So, the key question (context) is whether US and IRI were/are engaging in a negotiation to reach some sort of an agreement via the Swiss intermediaries, or are they just posturing and blowing hot air and gambling on their abilities to intimidate or trick each other (called bam'boo'zel in Persian) into a "win"?


    What do you think?


    Since the messages are secretive (encrypted), it's impossible to tell without an encryption key.


    Bonus:


    I was going to call it "parlor games" initially (referencing Hunger Games), but I thought if you haven't read the popular teen (or young adults) fiction, or seen the movies, it would be lost in translation.


    JE comments:  Is bamboozle a Persian word, or are you bamboozling us, A. J?  I confess here to my bamboozlement.  The online etymological dictionaries don't give us much information.  Tom Sawyer, through the pen of Mark Twain, was a virtuoso in the art of bamboozling.  Prof. Hilton was also fond of the sonorous trisyllable, as evidenced by this post from way back in 2001:


    https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=64270&objectTypeId=58520&topicId=239


    A. J., can you help us trace the etymology?  It would be a fascinating journey.  Oh, and by the way, let me disagree with your self-appraisal on English.  Your prose is outstanding.

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    • Fake News, or the Art of Bamboozling (A. J. Cave, USA 01/16/20 4:05 AM)
      I can't think of any writer worth her salt who doesn't love word play.

      To answer JE's question, "bamboozle" is indeed not a Persian word. It's a hook. In principle, this is how "fake news" is written. It has to be mostly true or factual to be believable, with some minor fake twist. Contrary to the current brouhaha over "fake news," it's not the invention of some Macedonian kids on Facebook during the last presidential elections. It goes all the way back to Herodotus and his disruptive Persian "history." Most of what he wrote was close enough to the actual events to be believable, so the parts that he invented are now indistinguishable from the rest.


      (As a side note, Bamboozled was a Spike Lee movie [Line Cinema, 2000] about race relations in US.)


      A lighthearted bluff or fib for fun is called: chaakhan kardan in Persian. The annual WAIS April Fool's day posts fall into this bucket.


      Serious deceiving or fooling (or bamboozling) someone is called: kolaah sar gozaashdan--meaning, put a hat on someone, sort of equivalent of pulling the wool over someone's eyes. It is used to indicate taking advantage of others (even ruining them) for personal gains.


      Lying in Persian is called: dorough goftan--lie telling (telling lies). The root of Persian dorough goes back to druj, an ancient Mazdaen/Zoroastrian word, meaning false or deceit. This duality of right vs wrong, good vs evil, asha (or artha) vs druj, is at the heart of all the Iranian religions. It's embedded in the Iranian psyche. Historically, once the Iranians decide that a king or a regime or a ruling class is a liar (evil), the fate of the regime is sealed. It's the old biblical "writing on the wall."


      JE comments:  You really had us there, A. J!  I fully believed that to our extensive list of Persian inventions--trousers, beer, horseback riding, the concept of human rights--we could add bamboozling.


      Here's an example of WAIS Word Power® (WWP) in action:  "Francine parlayed her gift for bamboozling into a lucrative political career."

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    • Fun with Etymologies (Timothy Ashby, Spain 01/16/20 10:03 AM)
      Ain't etymology a hoot!

      In my research delving deeply into the Tudor era, I have been amused to discover many words that I had assumed were modern but were actually in use nearly half a millennium ago. As an example, in January 1555, Bishop Gardiner ("Bloody" Mary's Lord Chancellor) wrote to the "Mayor and his Brethren of Leicester" admonishing them for abolishing "ancient and laudable" Catholic customs and for "being rather desirous of newfanglenes." I had assumed that "newfangled" dated from the late 19th or early 20th centuries.


      To shift subjects--while religious and political dissenters were horribly executed throughout the Tudor century, Queen Mary was truly "Bloody" (or more accurately, deeply charred). She ordered hundreds burned at the stake, including John Leaf, an "apprentice tallow chandler"; Richard Hook, "a lame man"; Ann Snoth, "A poor widow"; and John Apprice and Tom Drowy, "a blind man and a blind boy," both of whom were immolated on May 15, 1556, in the marketplace in the town of Gloucester.


      JE comments:  Yikes!  Let us honor the memory of Leaf, Hook and Snoth, and applaud the newfangled custom in (most) civilized countries of proscribing the death penalty.


      In my younger years, I always confused etymology with entomology--as well as proscribe vs prescribe.  And don't get us started on euthanasia.  I never understood why youth in Asia were so controversial.

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      • Gallows Eloquence: "We Shall This Day Light a Candle" (David Duggan, USA 01/18/20 4:38 AM)

        Be of good comfort and play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.


        --Hugh Latimer, Anglican Bishop of Worcester to Nicholas Ridley, Anglican Bishop of London on the pyre as they were both to be immolated by order of Mary, whose claim to the throne was dependent not on her immediate predecessor Edward VI, Henry VIII's only surviving son, but on Henry's Third Act of Succession which put his "bastard" daughters Mary and Elizabeth in line for the throne after Edward.


        Although the Church of England has erred and strayed from God's ways over the last 485 years, it remains the Mother Church for all who believe in the primacy of scripture, the merit of reason, and the value of the traditions of the church over 1990 years.


        JE comments:  Wow.  Gallows (or here, pyre) speeches are the ultimate test of poise and character.  Hope I'll never have to deliver one.  If you choke up, you don't get a "re-do."



        David, I am a bit taken aback by the "all" of your second paragraph.  WAIS strives to be an ecumenical space that welcomes all religions, as well as the freedom to practice none.  Does Anglican theology teach that no other denomination embraces scriptural primacy, reason and tradition?

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