Wagner and Cafiero 13—contributors at The World Post (*Daniel AND **Giorgio, “Japan's Influence in the Middle East,” The World Post, 10/25, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-wagner/japans-influence-in-the-m_b_4159850.html)//FJ
However, Japan has not only relied on its 'hard power' to improve the prospects for stability in the Middle East. In 2006, Japan initiated the Corridor of Peace and Prosperity, aimed at bringing aboutreconciliation between the Israelis and Palestinians. The initiative entails Japanese teachers working in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan and Japanese financial support for the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park, which is set to begin in 2014. This month Japan announced a $60 million humanitarian aid package, much of which is directed toward Jordan and intended to ease the ongoing financial burden of addressing the needs of Syrian refugees. Agreements between Japan and Saudi Arabia concerning cultural exchanges and technical assistance have also factored intoJapan's 'soft power' campaigns in the region. Japan understands that the region's instability will prove to be a continual challenge. While Tokyo firmly supports the establishment of a sovereign and democratic Palestinian state, based on the pre-1967 borders, the absence of a seat on the UN Security Council limits Tokyo's ability to influence such decision making. Given the tense situation in the Persian Gulf, the Japanese understand that their economic dependency on oil and gas that transits the Strait of Hormuz constitutes a perennial weakness. Rising Chinese investment throughout the Middle East is another area of concern for Tokyo, given how influential the Chinese have become in the region. Japan has therefore sought alternative sources of LNG and made major investments in renewable sources of energy, with the aim of decreasing reliance on the Middle East for its energy needs. In its pursuit of greater energy independence from the GCC, Japan should have little difficulty increasing LNG imports from its main non-Middle Eastern suppliers -- Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Russia. Japan may also be able to increase imports from Algeria, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru and the U.S. Although it is an important U.S. ally, Japan holds some unique cards in the Middle East, maintaining cooperative ties with both Israel and Iran, for example, while remaining neutral vis-à-vis the conflict in Syria. As the top export partner for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, number two for Oman, number three for Saudi Arabia, and number five for Iran, Japan wields considerable economic influence throughout the region. The pressure that the Obama Administration placed on Japan to cooperate with Western-imposed economic sanctions on Iran underscored how Japanese consumption of Iranian gas and oil was an influential variable in the standoff between Washington and Tehran. In short, although it is not widely recognized as such, Japan is one of the most influential economic actors in the Persian Gulf -- something that is unlikely to change in the near or medium term. Japan has no historical 'baggage' in the Middle East and the Japanese are respected on the 'Arab Street'. Given its unique position, it would be a mistake to dismiss Japan as solely an economic actor in the region. Japan is determined to bea force for peace and stability in the war-torn Middle East, even if doing so is in its own interest. Japan should ultimatelyprove influential in helping to determine the outcome of some of the region's most intractable conflicts.