The image of Iran's president, inaugurated for a second term on Saturday, is not supported by his record
Hassan Rouhani is no moderate
The re-election of Hassan Rouhani to the presidency of Iran earlier this year was welcomed in many quarters of the West. Mr Rouhani has spent considerable energy cultivating a dual image of himself as the moderate and the moderniser. The dividends of his efforts were on display over the weekend, when dignitaries from European capitals that were until recently hostile to Iran materialised in Tehran to toast Mr Rouhani’s inauguration.
Reeling from fresh sanctions slapped on Tehran last week by the Trump administration, the president of Iran did not miss the opportunity to depict his country as a guileless victim of the United States. Europe is frustrated with Donald Trump for a raft reasons, but allowing Mr Rouhani to exploit these differences would be a mistake of tragic proportions. Iran should be judged by its actions, not Washington's. By this measure, there is no reason to believe that Iran has changed its behaviour.
Mr Rouhani is currently playing host to Kim Yong-nam, the second-most powerful functionary in the pariah regime of North Korea. Given Tehran’s corrosive history of collusion with Pyongyang, this is deeply worrying. Under Mr Rouhani, Iran violated UN Security Council Resolution 1929 when it tested ballistic missiles in the fall of 2015, before proceeding, in January of this year, to carry out another ballistic missile test in defiance of UN Resolution 2231. Tehran’s financing of militant groups, such as Hizbollah in Lebanon, continues unabated, as does its intervention in Syria on behalf of Bashar Al Assad’s brutal regime. This is not the record of a “moderate”.
Mr Rouhani’s success in continuing with Iran’s menacing conduct abroad is rivalled only by his failure to modernise at home, where his cabinet is all-male and in thrall to the most extreme ideologues in Iran. Mr Rouhani’s return to the presidency is no cause for celebration.