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Japan’s Iran dilemma

16 4 0

SAPPORO – The situation in the Middle East remains extremely unstable. Since May, when Iran declared that it was suspending some of its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Saudi Arabian and Norwegian-registered oil tankers have been attacked around the Straits of Hormuz, and a Japanese oil tanker was attacked while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was actually visiting Iran in June.

September brought a strike on a Saudi Arabian oil facility, knocking out 5 percent of global oil production, albeit temporarily. For Japan, relying as it does on the Middle East for its supply of crude oil and natural gas, the frequent occurrence of such dangerous situations poses a major problem for domestic energy security.

Moreover, the facts and intentions pertaining to these incidents are not clear. Iran is suspected of involvement in the May and June oil tanker attacks and the September attack on the oil facility, but denies any such involvement. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also hinted at Iran’s involvement, but did not hold Iran to account for the damage sustained.

The United States has meanwhile pointed the finger directly at Iran. However, Washington’s existing policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran leaves little scope for sanctions. Even if additional sanctions were to be........

© The Japan Times