Sending its SDF personnel to the Middle East for intelligence-gathering activities, Japan is playing a balancing act to please both Iran and the U.S. (Image via The Japan Times)

Japan's SDF dispatch to the Middle East is a "product of compromise": Source

When the political expert saw that Japan decided to dispatch its Self-Defense Forces personnel for an intelligence-gathering mission to the Middle East, they perceived the step as a “product of compromise”.

When the United States (U.S) blamed the attacks and seizures on oil tankers in May and June 2019 on Iran, the U.S then invited all of its allies in a coalition to guard the shipment in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran, on the other hand, urged the world not to join the U.S as stationing foreign military forces around the area would only put it at risk.

For weeks, Japan has been considering how to appease both of its allies, the U.S and Iran, while both of its allies are at each other’s throat. Japan tried its best not to get on U.S nerves while maintaining its traditionally good relations with Iran as one of its crude oil suppliers.

The experts couldn’t help but blaming the U.S for the tension. In 2018, the U.S withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major nations and re-imposing economic sanctions on it instead.

Therefore, by sending the SDF to the region but excluding Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf, Japan had received consents from both the U.S and Iran.

According to the plan, Japan will dispatch 260 SDF personnel with a helicopter-carrying destroyer and two patrol planes. In an event of an emergency, the SDF can execute maritime policing actions by taking all necessary measures to defend itself such as the use of weapons at sea. That is what Japan is trying to avoid, but will consider as the “last resort”.

However, sending SDF overseas is already against the Japanese post-war, pacifist Constitution.

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), forming a coalition with its junior partner, Komeito, agreed to dispatch the SDF to maintain political-power balance. LDP set “one year” for the SDF dispatch and regarding any future condition, such as extending its mission, will be determined by the Cabinet.

The stipulations helped persuade Komeito to also agree to dispatch the SDF in the tense region.

But, looking at another perspective, Japan had made a positive development by using Salalah Port in Oman as a supply base for its destroyer; Oman and Iran are “close friends”. Same as Japan, Oman is a “bridge” between Iran, the U.S, and also Saudi Arabia.

For some, strengthening Japan’s intelligence-gathering activity in the region is deemed inevitable in the end. The Middle East is the main resource of 90 percent of crude oil for Japan. Therefore, the stability and peace in the region are integral to Japan.