EghtesadOnline: Expectations from President Hassan Rouhani’s upcoming visit to Japan should be toned down because Tokyo cannot play the role of a mediator between Tehran and Washington without the approval of the conflicting parties, a political analyst says.
"Proposals related to Iran-US relations may be put forward and discussed during the trip, but the reality is that the Americans say there is no need for mediation to resolve bilateral issues," Hassan Beheshtipour told ISNA in a recent interview.
Rouhani is to arrive in Tokyo on Thursday for a two-day visit and is slated to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday.
The trip, which will be the first such trip in two decades, will take place after Rouhani visits Malaysia for a Muslim leaders’ summit in Kuala Lumpur, according to Financial Tribune.
The visit comes about six months after Abe traveled to Tehran in June to try to ease tensions between Tehran and Washington, which have continued to intensify since US President Donald Trump last year pulled his country out of a 2015 multinational nuclear deal with Tehran and reimposed stringent sanctions.
Beheshtipour, an expert on international affairs, said the truth of the matter is that Trump believes Iran and the US can resolve their problems themselves without the help of other countries.
"This is probably the reason why mediation efforts by France to improve Tehran-Washington ties were not successful," he said.
In September, Trump dismissed French President Emmanuel Macron's attempt to mediate over US-Iran dispute.
"We don't need a mediator," Trump told reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. "He's [Macron] a friend of mine, but we're not looking for any mediators. They know who to call."
Beheshtipour said Japan can act as a mediator because of its good relations with Tehran and Washington, and has an interest in easing tensions in the Middle East, from which it imports more than 80% of its oil.
Iran had long been one of the major oil exporters until the United States ended its sanctions waivers granted to Iranian crude buyers, including Japan.
"By playing the role of a mediator, Japan can secure its energy needs and elevate its status on the international stage," the expert said.
"However, I believe we should not have very high expectations from Rouhani’s visit to Japan because the ground is not prepared for the resolution of issues between Tehran and Washington. Any such visit should be mainly interpreted within the framework of bilateral ties."
Asked about reports saying Japan had sought the US approval for hosting Rouhani, Beheshtipour said it should be put this way that Japanese officials had tried to secure the support of both parties for their mediation efforts.
Citing diplomatic sources, Kyodo News recently reported that the US has signaled approval for Japan's plan to host the Iranian president. It also said Washington has urged Tokyo to share the outcome of the summit between Abe and Rouhani.
"Trump's green light for the visit does not necessarily mean that Japan's mediation efforts would bear fruit. We should wait and see what initiative would be presented by the Japanese," the analyst said.