Abe’s surprise visit to Tehran . . .
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Iran today on a mission to ease tensions between the U.S. and Iran surprised many. First, because Abe’s visit had the blessing of U.S. President Donald Trump to play the role of a mediator amid the escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran following the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018. Second, the visit underscores Japan’s rising status as a middle-power broker on the global stage, a role that Canada has historically played, but has somewhat dithered over in recent years as it strives to decrease its dependence on the U.S. and diversify its trade interests in Asia.
90 years of building trust . . .
Japan has maintained a close trade relationship with Iran since 1929, weathering crises such as the Iranian Revolution and the embargo years with the U.S. since the 1980s. Iran has been a reliable supplier of oil to Japan in exchange for advanced industrial goods and technology transfers. In fact, since the Iran Deal in 2015, 33 Japanese companies have established offices and new investments in Iran. Based on these strong trade relations, Japan is indeed well poised to play the role of peace broker between Iran and the U.S.
Mowing Canada’s lawn . . .
Japan’s recent overtures to partners that cut across the U.S.-China divide, as in Abe’s visit to Iran, are characteristic of Canada’s historic image as a middle-power peacemaker. Ironically, Canada’s status as a middle power has arguably been in decline. Canada’s current relations with Iran, still marked by 2012 embassy closures, stand as a stark contrast to Japan’s constructive engagement today.
- The Japan Times: Oil imports and sanctions loom large as Abe visits Iran
- The Chronicle Herald: Explainer: Why is Japan’s Abe going to Iran? What can he accomplish?
- Council of Foreign Relations: Escalating US-Iran tensions: What’s next?