President Donald Trump gave Tehran prior notice ahead of the US attack on Iranian missile sites that was aborted on Thursday, June 20, saying that it was “imminent,” and adding that he is against war and wants to talk. Iranian officials replied that it was up to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to decide on this issue although he is against any talks. The exchange stopped there.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report exclusively that some of the messages the US and Iran exchanged shortly before and after the Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down a Navy missile over the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday did not go through any third party. They were channeled directly through a new hot line established in the last fortnight to create a direct link between the US Fifth Fleet in Manama, Bahrain and the Bushehr-based Revolutionary Guards Navy HQ.
The latest exchange ran into the main stumbling block in this communications process: there is no knowing for sure which messages actually reach the all-powerful supreme leader. Washington channeled a second set through Qatar – not Oman as both US and Iranian officials told reporters.
Hot lines especially in the Middle East are designed for emergency contacts between opposing powers to avert unintentional war conflagrations. They are maintained inter alia by the US and Russia, the US and Israel and Russia and Israel. This mechanism works only when it suits both parties. When one of the sides is intent on concealing its actions from the other, the link goes silent.
This breakdown of communications through the new hot line was behind the complaint heard from Gen. Amir Hajizadeh, chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Command: “Iran warned the [US] drone four times, and the drone would have transmitted the warnings to its central stations. Unfortunately, when they failed to reply, and the aircraft made no change to its trajectory… we were obliged to shoot it down.”
The US insists the drone was shot down in an “unprovoked
attack” in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.
“Their failure to reply” is the outstanding feature of the new hot line. According to our sources, the Trump administration has sent several messages through the Manama-Bushehr link warning Tehran to call off its planned strike on a major Saudi oil target, which is scheduled to occur in days. As far as we can establish, no Iranian reply has been forthcoming up until now.