During the election campaign of Rouhani and following his election, he was portrayed as the moderate leader. During the campaign he went out against extremists, calling for more freedom, supporting more engagement and negating gender discrimination. Many media outlets were decisive and resolute in terming him “the moderate”.
The nytimes reports that the masses went to the streets “to celebrate the landslide re-election of a moderate as a president”, as if it is an undisputed fact that he is a moderate. CNN terms the results “a victory for the moderates” and determines that Rouhani is a moderate. So also the wall street journal, one of the articles of the washingtonpost and others.
A powerful counter to this approach are the articles by nationalreview titled stop calling Iran’s jihadist president moderate and the bloomberg piece titled Iranians re-elect a fake reformer in a fake election and the politico which gives readers a reminder of who Rouhani really is in the article titled Iran’s president isn’t a reformer he’s an enabler.
To the credit of the media outlets, at least both approaches regarding Rouhani were represented.
If one had doubts as to which direction Rouhani would go after the elections, then one just needs to follow his first extensive remarks since his re-election, in which defiant statements towards the US, Saudi Arabia and the west were sounded loud and clear.
Regarding the missile tests he came out defiantly. Despite US opposition and despite the fact that the UN views the missile tests and launches as a violation of accords, Rouhani came out clearly on live TV affirming that Iran will not wait for permission, stating “the Iranian nation has decided to be powerful…American officials should know that whenever we need to technically test a missile, we will do so and will not wait for their permission” (see reuters).
As reported in the washingtonpost Rouhani, in a press conference, attacked the US bluntly and as reported in nytimes mocked President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia calling it “just a show”. Rouhani was not on his own. Zarif, another perceived moderate and charmer, also came out scorning and rebuking the US (see reuters). Marking the future path, the washingtonpost notes the fact that Iran strikes back at the US with more reciprocal sanctions.
It may be true that the Trump visit to Saudi Arabia “aggravated Iran”, but the re-election of Rouhani could have been an opportunity for Rouhani to show his reformer and engager side. Instead, he came out revealing “the other side”. Both opposing sides of Rouhani live comfortably with each other. The question is who is the real Rouhani?