Stories by Behnam Ben Taleblu

Expert Voices

In Tehran, Shinzo Abe tries to play part of U.S.–Iran mediator

Shinzo Abe and Hassan Rouhani shaking hands
Hassan Rouhani and Shinzo Abe in Tehran. Photo: Presidency of Iran / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe begins two days of meetings with Iranian officials in Tehran on Wednesday — seeking "a frank exchange of views" and following up on a proposal to mediate for the U.S. that President Trump cautiously welcomed in May.

Why it matters: Abe’s visit comes amid Iranian escalation — of both its regional operations and nuclear program — and intensifying U.S. economic pressure. As Iran seeks relief from American sanctions, Abe is likely banking on the U.S.–Japan alliance and his close relationship with Trump to protect Japan’s interests and boost its image.

Expert Voices

Thirty years into rule, Khamenei continues centralizing power in Iran

Khamenei seated in a chair on stage, next to the Iranian flag
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Photo: Iran's Leader Press Office – handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

June 4 marks the 30th anniversary of Seyyed Ali Khamenei's reign as Iran’s Supreme Leader, making him one of the longest-serving autocrats in the modern Middle East.

Why it matters: Khamenei’s rule has seen increased tension with and distrust of the West, proxy warfare across the region, troubled relationships with a series of presidents, and escalating protests. Iran has only grown more authoritarian under Khamenei, making it unlikely the country will change course either at home or abroad.

Expert Voices

U.S. renews some nuclear waivers for Iran, breaking from hard line

Reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear plant
The reactor building at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran. Photo: Majid Asgaripour/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration last week renewed 5 of 7 sanctions waivers to continue permitting international civil nuclear cooperation with Iran — a selective approach that appears to acknowledge concerns of European allies.

Why it matters: Keeping most waivers in place risks signaling irresolution on the part of an administration that has made “maximum pressure” against the Islamic Republic a centerpiece of its foreign policy.