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Tempered hopes for US-Iran breakthrough as Japan’s Abe travels to Iran

Though President Donald Trump has encouraged the visit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has limited room to maneuver as he visits Iran this week to try to advance US-Iran dialogue.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe onboard the Japan's navy ship Kaga on May 28, 2019 in Yokosuka, Japan. Charly Triballeau/Pool via REUTERS      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1356757C20

WASHINGTON — When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a historic visit to Iran this week, he will do so with a rare nod from US President Donald Trump to see if he can facilitate US-Iranian dialogue to ease tensions. But with the Trump administration doubling down on its maximum pressure campaign and Iran insisting on a US return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal before any new US-Iran talks, Abe has narrow room for maneuver.

“With regards to what Abe intends to achieve, it would depend on how far he is willing to carry the burden on his shoulders,” Koichiro Tanaka, the president of the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, and a former Japanese Foreign Ministry official who worked on Iran, told Al-Monitor by email. “If he is trying to defuse some amount of tension, that could be achievable, knowing that it would be a short-lived one.”

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