- - Sunday, June 9, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Dealing with misleading truisms is part of life, but so is refusing to accept what fate has supposedly decreed. It’s a sad fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been crossways with the United States and the West for 40 years. But we’re entitled to hope that the past is not a prologue to the future this time.

A glimmer of hope has emerged that the Islamic republic’s 40-year indulgence of anti-Americanism might be breached. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used the occasion of President Trump’s visit to Tokyo to offer himself as mediator between the United States and Iran’s stubborn mullahs. The president responded with measured enthusiasm. “I know that the prime minister and Japan have a very good relationship with Iran, so we’ll see what happens.” Not exactly a high five.

Iran’s dour foreign minister, Javad Zarif, was less sanguine, tweeting “Actions — not words — will show whether or not that’s Trump’s intent.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was more, well, diplomatic. “We want to give diplomacy another try,” he said, adding that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expects to meet Mr. Abe in Tehran this month.

Conventional wisdom holds that the likelihood of successful mediation between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program ranks lower than the odds of June snow in Miami Beach. Certain times call for unconventional enterprise, however, and just such a time could be aborning.

With the 2020 election season approaching, Mr. Trump could use a diplomatic breakthrough to polish his re-election resume. The president wears his deal-making prowess like a favorite hat, and in his previous life as a real-estate developer he struck business deals all over the world. But as president, vital diplomatic deals have proved elusive.



Several unsigned pacts are stacked on the negotiating table — the U.S.Mexico-Canada Agreement, a denuclearization pact with North Korea, a trade deal with China and, most recently, an accord that would avert new tariffs on Mexican goods in exchange for serious curtailment of immigrant caravans violating southern border. Tariffs will remain in place unless Mr. Trump can raise his skills of persuasion.

To be sure, the president successfully used the carrot and stick to goad NATO nations into pledging an additional $100 billion for mutual defense. Allies are easier marks than competitors, however, and Iran is neither ally nor competitor, but rather a deluded and self-declared enemy of civilization.

The Islamic republic has a desperate need for relief from economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration when he withdrew the United States from the questionable Iran nuclear deal last year. Since then, the nation of 82 million has watched its economy shrink, with inflation running at 31 percent in 2018, according to the International Monetary Fund. Unemployment has held steady at 12 percent, but youth joblessness exceeds 28 percent, as measured by the Central Bank of Iran.

When Mr. Trump suspended waivers in May that had enabled U.S.-friendly nations to buy Iranian oil, the ruling mullahs threatened to disrupt Persian Gulf oil tanker traffic. With a U.S. aircraft carrier on patrol nearby, only a few suspicious acts of ship sabotage have roiled Gulf waters. Still, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East is wary of Iranian military mischief. “I think the threat is imminent,” Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie told NBC News last week.

Rather than forswear its nuclear designs, Iran has loudly vowed to increase its uranium enrichment production. A deeply worried Olli Heinonen, former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, estimates that Iran is between only six to eight months away from developing a nuclear weapon. “Israelis need to be worried, and the Gulf states also have reason for concern,” Mr. Heinonen told Israelnationalnews.com last week. “How will you be able to ensure your security if Iran achieves nuclear abilities?” It’s a question that Americans should likewise ponder.

As the only nation on Earth to have suffered the devastation of nuclear weapons, Japan can bring unique resolve to negotiations meant to prevent the manufacture of another Islamic bomb. A deal in which Iran agrees to limits on its uranium enrichment activities — permanent and verifiable — in exchange for economic sanctions relief would go a long way toward plugging the loopholes that made the original agreement fatally flawed.

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