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Will Trump turn Rouhani into hawk?

Caught between US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and calls for a harsher stance at home, Iran’s moderate president must sooner rather than later find a way to solve this dilemma.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani takes part in a press conference near the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson  - RTSP0V5

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.

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