Swiss President Maurer Meets President Trump in the Oval Office


Swiss President Ueli Maurer’s meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump was a unique bilateral event at a moment of increasing tensions between the United States and Iran. While it’s not clear what exactly was discussed in the forty minute meeting in the Oval Office – progress towards an eventual free trade agreement between Switzerland and the U.S? the role of Switzerland in representing the U.S. in the Venezuelan crisis? – the Swiss press has focused on the role Switzerland could play in avoiding a U.S./Iranian confrontation.

Switzerland has represented American interests in Iran since the hostage crisis of 1979. It is important to remember the outstanding role Swiss Ambassador Erik Lang and his colleagues played in helping the liberation of 52 American diplomats and citizens after 444 days of detention. (See the film "Ambassade") There is a history of Switzerland’s representing U.S interests in Iran.
If the meeting was about Iran, what exactly is today’s crisis? Since the beginning of May, the United States has pinpointed increasing Iranian aggressivity in the Persian Gulf including increased Iranian aid to militant groups and some proxy forces in the region. Photographs claim to show Iranian missiles being loaded on small boats in the Persian Gulf by paramilitary forces. There have even been indications that Iran is preparing to attack U.S. troops and interests. In response, the State Department has ordered a partial evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Militarily, an aircraft carrier, long-range bombers and other military hardware have been sent to the region.
If the exact nature of the Maurer/Trump meeting remains unclear, there is also no clear position on the American side about Iran. National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are leading advocates of the increased Iranian aggressivity and are calling for a strong American response, with the possibility of sending 120,000 troops to the region. Bolton was in the Oval Office meeting with Maurer and Trump. (Bolton is a strong supporter of regime change in Iran as well as Venezuela.)
On the other hand, members of Congress, European leaders, Iraqis and some members of the Trump administration are reluctant to label Iran as the aggressor. After all, it was the United States that pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal and continues to impose rigid sanctions.
Many members of the U.S. Congress are reluctant to give President Trump a free hand in this potential conflict for two reasons. First, it is the legal right of Congress to declare war and it is their role to oversee sending military forces into combat. Second, the contestation over the photographs of missiles being loaded on boats reminds many of the infamous Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 when the United States government maintained that the USS Maddox had been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin by North Vietnamese forces leading to increased US involvement in the Vietnam War. The report of the incident was and is controversial with significant indications showing that the “incident” was falsely presented to justify increased U.S. involvement. 
Why would Donald Trump create tension with Iran? The movie “Wag the Dog” presents a scenario where a war is fabricated to distract voters’ attention from a presidential sex scandal. And if the United States were to be involved in a violent conflict with Iran, chances are it would help President Trump to be re-elected in 2020. In times of crisis, history has shown, voters tend to elect the incumbent candidate for the sake of stability.
Whatever the reason for the Maurer/Trump meeting, Switzerland’s image as an important neutral country which offers its “good offices” tradition has been enhanced, although Switzerland was barely mentioned in the American press which focused mainly on tensions within the U.S. government. And there are significant differences between Switzerland’s specific role in dealing with the 1979 hostage crisis and this larger, more complex confrontation. One can only speculate about why President Maurer and President Trump didn’t have more to say about the meeting. Nevertheless, whatever the outcome, a visit by a Swiss president to the Oval Office is an important event in and of itself.

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  • Entre Ignacio Cassis aux affaires étrangères et Ueli Maurer à son titre de président tournant, nous pouvons attendre le pire.
    Le premier nous a fait la démonstration de gaffes majeures, notamment avec son déplacement au Congo pour soutenir une multinationale controversée et le second qui par son conservatisme exacerbé ne semble pas vraiment prendre la mesure des engagements internationaux.
    Espérons juste qu'ils auront su séduire par leur humilité.

  • Wars are triggered by lies. USS Maine explosion off Cuba in 1898 led to war with Spain, a lie spread by press tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Gulf of Tonkin incidents in 1964 led to the Vietnam war, a lie spread by president Lyndon Baines Johnson, revealed by the Pentagon Papers, (remember ? when there was a free press in America ?) false Nayirah testimony before congress in 1990 led to Kuwait war, a lie spread by the public ralations firm Hill & Knowlton, WMD lie led to Iraq war, thanks to the support of the venerable New York Times. One could go on and on, and wonders therefore whether Mr. Maurer knows what he is doing.

  • Excellents article de M. Daniel Warner ainsi que le commentaire de M. Bruno Hubacher.

    M. B.H. dit:"One could go on and on, and wonders therefore whether Mr. Maurer knows what he is doing."

    Je pense que M. Ueli Maurer et la Suisse pensent et ils sont heureux de se trouver sur la Photo à côté de Trump, c est déjà ça de gagner, ils pensent!

    Quant à Trump, il se foute que le président de la CH soit à côté de lui sur la photo puisque ce petit pays la Suisse de 700 000 habitants se trouve, et il en est capable de le tweeter, dans soit le continent australien soit asiatique!

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