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Editorial: Tensions between US, Iran creating volatile situation

U.S. President Donald Trump shocked the world when he recently tweeted that he had halted a strike on Iran 10 minutes before it was due to go ahead. The president is said to have considered the strike as retaliation for Iran shooting down an unmanned U.S. military drone near the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East.

Trump subsequently tweeted that he had not called the strike against Iran "back," but rather "stopped it going forward." Nevertheless, a president posting a comment on Twitter that could be seen as a will to engage in warfare does nothing but create a heightened sense of crisis and lower the hurdle for war to break out.

The U.S. is said to have considered targeting three different military sites in Iran. It probably intended to carry out a limited attack, but Iran, which has one of the strongest military forces in the Middle East, has both the capability and will to fight back.

The region around the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf is a complicated one in which pro-U.S. and pro-Iran countries stand side by side. There are also many oil-producing countries in the region and oil tankers pass through the area. If these countries were to start warring against each other, there is no telling how greatly it could affect the world.

Does the United States comprehend the seriousness of such a scenario? It is believed that U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, who is known as a hawkish member of the Trump administration, was among those advocating retaliation. Within the administration, pro-Israel, anti-Iran voices seem to form the mainstream.

Trump previously repeatedly threatened North Korea in a war of words, and then engaged in dialogue with the country. He may be thinking he can take that course of action with Iran, too, but threats could lead to unforeseen circumstances.

At the same time, Iran has seen the rise of hard-line conservatives who are hostile toward the United States. It was the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, an epitome of such conservatives, that shot down the U.S. drone. The words of commanders are intensifying day by day in response to the United States' hard-line stance.

Following the recent attacks on two tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, the United States released images purportedly showing an unexploded mine, among other things, and said this was proof that the Revolutionary Guard was involved. Iran, however, denies this. The stance of using uncertain information as grounds for military action is reminiscent of that leading up to the Iraq War.

At the Group of 20 summit that will take place at the end of this week in the western Japan city of Osaka, many countries connected with the Iran issue will come together. Leaders should talk with each other so that tensions between the United States and Iran do not develop into a military clash. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will preside over the summit, has a responsibility to lead such discussions.

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