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Editorial: U.S., Iran must restrain themselves to ease tensions, avert showdown

  • January 10, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 7:28 p.m.
  • English Press

The United States and Iran share the view of not seeking a war. The leaders of the two countries likely recognized that restrained responses would lead to avoiding a clash. Taking this opportunity, the two countries must continue with a relaxation of tensions.


Iran attacked military bases housing U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. As a retaliatory measure, U.S. President Donald Trump has announced that Washington will impose additional economic sanctions. Trump rejected the idea of conducting retaliatory attacks, saying that he does not want to use military force.


Trump, who had showed off the U.S. military’s strong capabilities, likely dared to opt for economic sanctions because he wants to avoid a scenario in which exchanging military attacks escalates into a large-scale conflict. This is a sensible judgment.


In retaliation for the U.S. military’s killing of an influential commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran fired more than 10 ballistic missiles at military bases in Iraq.


Iran’s direct military attacks on U.S. troops were the first since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Given the murder of the commander, who was worshipped as a national hero, the Iranian leadership was pressed on the need to demonstrate domestically a hard-line stance against Washington.


The Iranian missiles hit the parking lots of military bases and elsewhere but there were no casualties among U.S. personnel. Iran’s foreign minister said that the strikes “concluded” Tehran’s retaliation against the killing of the commander. The Iranian side likely scrupulously calculated measures that would not add fuel to Trump’s anger, thereby preventing an all-out war.


The worst situation was avoided for now but there remain flash points for confrontation and clashes.


Iran has been increasing its presence in the Middle East by supporting pro-Iran armed groups in such countries as Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. There is concern that tensions will heighten again if these groups attack U.S. troops, Israel or Saudi Arabia, among other targets.


Washington and Tehran are struggling for the power of influence in Iraq. Pro-Iran forces in the country are calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops stationed there. If U.S. forces playing a role of mopping up radical elements pull out, public safety will inevitably worsen.


To begin with, the U.S.-Iran confrontation intensified after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the multinational agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and resumed sanctions against Tehran.


The nuclear accord concluded in 2015 had brought about certain results in terms of restraining Iran’s uranium enrichment, which could lead to the production of nuclear weapons, and putting Iran’s nuclear program under the surveillance of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Five other signatories to the agreement — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — emphasize the necessity for maintaining the accord.


Trump advocates for concluding a nuclear agreement anew, but his strategy of ramping up pressure on Iran to make concessions has hit a snag. Japan and European countries are supposed to play a big role in mediating between Washington and Tehran. They are called on to deepen talks with other countries concerned in a bid to find breakthrough measures.

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