Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews a guard of honour as he is welcomed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran. Image Credit: AP

Tehran - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe landed in Tehran on Wednesday on a mission to ease tensions between the US and Iran. Abe’s trip is the highest-level effort yet to de-escalate the crisis as Tehran appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers, an accord that the Trump administration pulled out of last year. It’s also the first visit of a sitting Japanese premier in the 40 years since the Islamic Revolution.

But success may prove difficult for Abe, as an Al Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha regional airport underscored. Separately, the front page of the daily newspaper Farheekhtegan, or Educated, in Iran on Wednesday morning published a picture of a mushroom cloud from a nuclear blast - a reference to America’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War. “How Can You Trust A War Criminal, Mr. Abe?” the newspaper asked in dual English and Farsi headlines. Hard-line news outlets in Iran immediately picked up the front page from the paper, published by students of Islamic Azad University, which has campuses across the nation.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) is greeted by Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (3rd R) at Tehran's Mehrabad airport. Image Credit: AFP

Abe’s plane landed at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport on Wednesday afternoon where he was greeted by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He was to immediately meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

On a four-day visit to Japan last month, US President Donald Trump welcomed Abe’s help in dealing with Iran, highlighting what he called the “very good relationship” between Tokyo and Tehran.

As a US ally that also has good diplomatic relations with Iran, Japan could be in a unique position to mediate between the Islamic Republic and the United States. “Mr. Abe can be a great mediator to facilitate that (easing of oil sanctions)... Japan has always respected Iran, and Mr. Abe can play a very constructive role to calm the ongoing tension that can harm the (Middle East) region,” said an Iranian official, who asked not to be named.