By Payman Yazdani

Abe not to be able to achieve any real breakthrough: Italian expert

June 11, 2019

TEHRAN - Dr. Pastori Gianluca says that Shinzo Abe will not be able to achieve any real breakthrough in tensions between Iran and the U.S.

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 many roles 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 political science associated professor of Milan Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Dr. Pastori Gianluca.
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: President Trump has often used a ‘stick-and-carrot’ approach to his international intercourses. The ‘stick’ element theoretically aims at ‘softening’ the counterpart and making it more amenable to the U.S. requests. In this perspective, I see no real contradiction between the ask for talks and the adoption of new sanctions; it is ‘simply’ a product of President Trump’s vision of negotiation as power struggle. President Trump repeatedly said that his aim is not disrupting the JCPOA but revising it, according to the U.S. interests and visions of security and sanction are only one of the tools that his administration uses to ‘pressurize’ Iran and try to reach this goal.

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

A: Japan is heavily dependent on Persian Gulf energy supplies. In FY 2018, it imported approx. 67.7 million kiloliters of crude oil from Saudi Arabia, 44.9 from UAE, 14.2 from Qatar, 13.5 from Kuwait, 6.66 from Iran, and lesser amounts from Bahrain, Oman and Iraq. Currently, energy security is of increasing concern for the Japanese government. In this perspective, the country has a keen interest in keeping the Persian Gulf stable and in avoiding any possible escalation. A diplomatic success could also boost the country’s standing and strengthen Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the domestic field, especially in view of the upcoming elections for the Japanese Upper House.

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

A: It is hard to say how successful Abe’s mediation can be. Japan-Iran relations are traditionally good, and Prime Minister Abe can play the part of the honest broker. Japan is a loyal U.S. ally and Mr. Abe is said to be in good personal relations with President Trump. The Arab monarchies also see Japan as ‘not menacing’ (i.e.: not too much pro-Iranian). Finally, Mr. Abe has nothing to lose in case of a failure. All these elements can positively impact on the outcome. However, Iranian attitude and willingness to show some flexibility are equally is important. I don’t think Abe will be able to achieve any real breakthrough, but now breaking the ice is important as well.

Q: Despite its powerful economy Japan has been following the U.S. foreign policy. How will Japan be able to affect the U.S. decisions as an independent mediator between Iran and U.S.?

A: As already said, the credibility of Japan’s mediation is linked to a large extent to the fact that the country is a loyal U.S. ally. Abe’s loyalty to the U.S. strengthens his position. Moreover, Japan’s initiative seems fitting well into the U.S. ‘stick-and-carrot’ strategy. Some days ago, State Secretary Mike Pompeo expressed the U.S. willingness to start a dialogue with Iran ‘with no precondition’. Now, Abe’s task is not affecting the U.S. decisions but facilitating the U.S.-Iran dialogue. Once again, the problem is: are the parties ready to support this dialogue by showing some flexibility? I think this is the most important question to understand the future of JCPOA.

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