By Payman Yazdani

Tehran should not have high expectation from Abe’s visit: prof.

June 10, 2019

TEHRAN - Professor of the University of South Alabama in the U.S. believes that Tehran should not have high expectations from the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to Iran.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to travel to Iran on June 12, the first visit by a Japanese prime minister in the past four decades as Tokyo hopes to mediate between Washington and Tehran. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have worsened since Washington withdrew last year from Joint Comprehensive plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and several world powers, and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran.

In this regard, some experts believe that Japan did not play much role in the diplomatic arena after World War II, and their political relations with other countries were just limited to bilateral relations. Iran should not take Shinzo Abe's visit to Tehran so seriously on the tensions between Iran and the U.S. because there are doubts about Japan's capability to be able to act independently as a mediator after 74 years of having dependent foreign policy on the U.S.
To shed more light on the issue we reached out to Prof. Nader Entessar; a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of South Alabama.
Here is the full text of our interview with him:

Q: While President Trump repeatedly asks for talks with Iran, on Friday again in a hostile and trust killing act his administration slapped new sanctions against Iran’s petrochemical section. How do you interpret his contradictory measures?

A: According to Trump's decision-making calculus, there is no contradiction between taking hostile actions against Iran while simultaneously asking for face-to-face negotiations.  In fact, Trump sees his policy of "maximum pressure" as a tool to enhance his negotiating position with Iran.  In other words, Trump wants a weak Iran at the negotiating table so that he can extract maximum concessions from Tehran in any future negotiations.

Q: What reasons have motivated Japan to try to mediate between Iran and the USA?

A: Japan imports a significant part of its energy needs from the Persian Gulf region and does not want to damage its economy because of conflict in the region.  Also, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has apparently established friendly ties with Trump and Trump believes that given Japan's good relations with Iran, Prime Minister Abe is in a good position to act as an intermediary between Washington and Tehran.  Trump's modus operandi relies heavily on personal relationships he establishes with individuals, both in domestic and foreign affairs.  

Q: How successful can Abe’s visit to Tehran be under such situation and Trump’s contradictory acts?

A: I think Prime Minister Abe is carrying Trump's message to Iran as a favor to the American President.  But Japan's diplomatic window of opportunity and Abe's diplomatic maneuverability is limited.  I don't want to downgrade the importance of Shinzo Abe's visit to Iran, but Tehran should not have high expectations from the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to Iran.

Q: Despite its powerful economy, after World War II Japan has been following the US foreign policy in all areas of foreign affairs. How will Japan be able to affect the US decisions as an independent mediator between Iran and U.S.?

A: Japan has been dutifully following Washington's line in almost all areas of foreign affairs since the end of the Second World War.  Besides, Japan's role as an intermediary in major international disputes has been minimal relative to other major countries.  Japan is not in a position to affect U.S. policies towards Iran.  The best Japan can do is to act as an honest intermediary between Washington and Tehran.  In other words, Tokyo does not have the capability to act as an independent mediator in resolving U.S.-Iran conflict.

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