Trump’s maximum pressure train hits buffers with Abe’s doomed Iran mission
Japans prime minister isnt the first leader to regret trying to do Trump a favor but he must have known he was taking a risk
Shinzo Abes trip to Tehran this week turned out to be one of the more ill-fated mediation efforts of recent times.
What was billed as a grand gesture the first Japanese leader to visit Iran in four decades ended in humiliation, with split-screen television pictures showing Abe being told off by a stern supreme leader, while a thick plume of smoke rose from a burning Japanese tanker in the Gulf of Oman.
The US has blamed Iran for Thursdays attack on two petrochemical tankers and has distributed grainy black and white images purporting to show Iranian sailors removing a limpet mine from the side of the Japanese tanker.
The footage has produced more questions than answers. Is the removal of the unexploded mine supposed to show an effort to hide evidence? The Pentagon is not saying.
If this was an effort by Iranian hardliners to torpedo peace talks, why was it not timed to disrupt Abes meeting the day before with the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani (the hardliners principal target), rather than their patron, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?
Even without the visible symbolism of burning oil, Khameneis response to Abes mission could hardly have been more dismissive. He tossed aside the polite pretense that the Japanese prime minister had come on his own initiative, inviting the television cameras into his office to explain, in the bluntest of terms while Abe looked on helplessly, that the Japanese visitor had come bearing a message from Donald Trump, and was wasting his time.
To add inevitable insult to injury, the US president then swiftly disowned Abe and his mission, portraying him in a tweet as well-meaning but naive, and declaring the time was not right for negotiations.