Amid heightened U.S.-Iran tensions sparked by the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Japan's relationships with key players as well as its soft power assets create an opening for much-needed diplomacy between the United States, Iran and Arab states.

Abe would do well to use this opportunity to encourage U.S. President Donald Trump to double down on a long-term U.S. strategy to invest in regional stability.

Abe's mid-January tour of the Persian Gulf, which occurred alongside the Jan. 14 U.S.-Japan-South Korea foreign minister trilateral meeting, will measure the returns on Japan's investments in its Middle East interests, which are structural as well as increasingly geopolitical.