In this regard, an official close to Rouhani’s camp told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “President Rouhani’s moderate policy is not a tactic, it is a strategy. He does not have to change his approach just because someone such as Trump came to power. But moderation does not mean giving up our rights; whoever wants to threaten our nation is going to hear a clear and frank response, whether it is Trump or any other power in the world or the region.”
The official added, “If the [Iranian] president is to change his approach to win the [upcoming May presidential] elections then he’d better not enter the elections. He was elected four years ago because of his moderation and because they [voters] knew he is capable of delivering [on his promises] and he already has.”
Added to the mix is that Rouhani may have taken up a new goal last month after the Jan. 8 death of his mentor, former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rouhani, 68, wants to prove that he is the best successor to Rafsanjani, who was the spiritual leader of the moderation camp. However, this is not an easy task. He is not the only candidate who wants to fill these shoes, and the moderation camp is going through a level of uncertainty with its opponents’ using Trump’s words to discredit its policies.
In this regard, Rouhani is expected to start acting as an umbrella for the camp he represents, and at the same time, stand stronger against Trump while not risking his main achievement, namely the nuclear deal. Rouhani is certainly not expected to transform into his hard-line predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rather, his real challenge is going to be to present a new version of Rouhani in the time before his expected bid for re-election in May.