Will Trump turn Rouhani into Hawk?

By Ali Hashem, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Being Iran’s president while Tehran is “officially on notice” by Washington is not an easy task for a moderate such as Hassan Rouhani.

From now on, whether he likes it or not, the harsh rhetoric his US counterpart Donald Trump is adopting is going to be reflected in whatever Rouhani is going to say in the coming months. It is not only Trump who is forcing this to happen.

The upcoming May presidential elections in Iran and the level of pressure the Iranian president is facing and is expected to face makes it quite unsurprising to hear Rouhani warn Trump that “he’ll regret threatening Iran,” though these words weren’t enough for the Islamic Republic’s Principlist camp.

With Trump’s current rhetoric, the Iranian establishment is unlikely to accept a rejoinder of soft words or diplomatic approaches from its president. However, this does not mean that there is any interest in accepting Trump’s game and heightening tensions to a level beyond anyone’s control.

In this vein, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has thanked the US president for showing America’s “true face.” Indeed, the Iranian leader seemed very content to see the “newcomer” proving what he has “been saying for more than 30 years,” as he told a group of military officers on the 38th anniversary of the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Trump’s time in office when it comes to Rouhani might be comparable to when George W. Bush’s presidency (2001-2009) overlapped that of his Iranian Reformist counterpart Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005). Obviously, there are many differences that could be pointed out with respect to the region, the world and international relations then and now, yet the similarity comes from that both Bush and Trump are American hard-liners, while Khatami and Rouhani are both from a school that prefers diplomacy and have faith in dialogue rather than confrontation and threats.

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