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Guest column: U.S., Iran must find ways to talk

Japan News-Yomiuri

At the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering of world leaders, a spotlight was once again focused on the U.S.-Iran conflict.

For the continued tensions to be resolved, it is essential for these two countries to try to communicate with each other and explore ways to have dialogue.

U.S. President Donald Trump condemned Iran in his address to the U.N. General Assembly, saying it “has escalated its violent and unprovoked aggression.” He called for other countries to increase pressure on Iran, saying, “All nations have a duty to act.”

Saudi Arabia and the United States have determined that Iran was involved in attacks on Saudi oil facilities in the middle of this month. British, French and German leaders have issued a joint statement saying, “It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility” for the attacks.

As Iran has persistently denied its involvement, the United Nations is investigating what really happened by sending experts to Saudi Arabia.

Britain, France and Germany have switched to a stance of going along with the United States, a change from their cautious position of applying pressure on Iran, probably because they obtained certain evidence that substantiates Iran’s involvement.

In his meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said “considerable doubts have been raised” about the view that the attacks were carried out by anti-government forces in Yemen. Abe strongly called for Tehran to refrain from taking action that would violate the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and major powers.

The Iranian leadership should look squarely at the reality that Iran’s isolation has been growing as the international community’s distrust of the country has heightened. As a great power in the Middle East, Iran should not forget about its responsibility to defuse the situation.

Ensuring safety in the Strait of Hormuz, which was requested by Abe, could become a first step toward regaining international trust in the country. During his visit to Iran in June, Abe also met with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Abe must continue to play a role of encouraging the easing of tensions by taking advantage of the friendly relations between Japan and Iran.

What makes the problem serious is the deep-seated distrust between Tehran, which takes an anti-U.S. stance as its national policy, and Washington. Iran has intervened in civil wars in Yemen and Syria in recent years through its assistance of rebel forces, thereby expanding its sphere of influence in the Middle East.

Despite Iran’s nuclear development program being restricted because of the nuclear agreement, it has been moving forward with ballistic missile development. Such moves have heightened the caution felt by Saudi Arabia and Israel, which are hostile to Iran, and this has led to intensifying confrontation with the United States.

Iran should refrain from taking actions that would destabilize the region.

In his meeting with Rouhani, French President Emmanuel Macron called on him to accept a request for negotiations on Middle East security, including missile development, in addition to the nuclear issue.

Both Washington and Tehran stress that they do not desire war. If so, they should open channels for dialogue and take measures to prevent accidental clashes.

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