GP Insights # 70, 15 June 2019
From 12-14 June 2019, Shinzo Abe marked his visit to Iran becoming the first Japanese Prime Minister to the Islamic nation since the 1979 revolution. Japan and Iran are in the 90th year of their diplomatic relationship this year. It is also significant to note that the visit came shortly after US President Donald Trump made a state visit to Japan. Abe’s trip is a result of significant support and encouragement from the US and its Middle Eastern allies to ease the ongoing tensions between Tehran and Washington and, subsequently bringing peace to the region.
What is the background?
US relations with Iran has taken a toll since Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal over Iran's Nuclear Programme and imposing harsh economic sanctions. There has been a further escalation in tensions when the Trump administration sent an aircraft carrier to the region and moved to send additional troops indicating the possibilities of a military confrontation. While both the nations are still working on different pages, recently, the friction took a paradoxical shift when Trump announced his openness to holding diplomatic talks with Iran.
What does it mean?
For the Japanese leadership, the bilateral meeting at Iran comes as an opportunity. In a multipolar world order, Abe’s interference into a possible war-like situation has become an honest effort to lift Japan’s influence on the global stage. Besides, this comes with strong support from Washington. While the continuation of conflict has hit hard on the Japanese economy. Japan has stopped oil imports from Iran under American pressure. Any further escalation in the region would primarily affect its energy trade in the region.
On the other hand, Abe’s visit might not certainly create wonders as far as easing of tensions is concerned. While Japan continues to be a good friend of Iran, its close alliance with the US might make the process of peacemaking and arbitration more biased. After a long stint of little reaction, not to forget that Japanese efforts have also come in pretty late. This will undoubtedly make Tehran wary of Tokyo’s involvement in the conflict.