After US President Donald Trump’s ill-advised decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, some headlines have noted that Iran’s hard-liners have been empowered as a result. While that may be true — and extremists in Tehran certainly claim as much — it also paints an incomplete picture. Trump’s Jerusalem fiasco has, in fact, also been a boon to President Hassan Rouhani and his administration. In other words, it has in several key ways empowered the Islamic Republic as a whole — and not any particular faction or group.
First, Iran’s political system will now have an easier time realigning its ideological and geopolitical proclivities. This will essentially solidify the executive branch as Iranian stakeholders unify against Trump’s extremist activities in the Middle East. Before the Jerusalem announcement, Tehran was more measured in playing the anti-Israel card relative to its bombast during the presidency of conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013). This was because Iran’s geopolitical goal of escaping American and Israeli-led efforts to render it a pariah required tempering its ideological inclination to spout off anti-Israel tirades, which score brownie points among Arab public opinion.