Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trip to Tehran, intended to urge the government of Iran to talk seriously with the United States about resuming direct diplomacy, was a long shot. The enmity between the two countries is too deep and the demands too sweeping to anticipate a breakthrough. But if Iran was looking for an opportunity to end the stalemate, the trip afforded just that.

Apparently, Iran is not looking for such an opening. Abe’s entreaties were flatly rejected by the Iranian leadership. And as if to put an exclamation point on the futility of the effort, two ships in the Gulf of Oman came under attack during the trip. While it was not immediately known who was behind the attack, the culprit could be any actor determined to scuttle diplomacy. The risk of conflict is rising — and that seems to have been the intent of the provocations.

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