I caught a few minutes of Trump's Saudi Arabia speech this morning and I thought it unfortunate. By lambasting Iran he (consciously or not) places Rouhani in a difficult situation.
Rouhani, who just won re-election, ran on a platform of liberalisation and rapprochement with the West. The fact that he won convincingly says a lot about the trajectory of Iranian society. The ayatollahs are in control but at the same time they don't want a repeat of the violence we saw in 2009-11. We saw it because whether they like it or not, social media broadcast it to the world.
But then comes Trump. His speech all but endorses the Saudi policy and the Middle Eastern Cold War between Riyadh and Tehran. The new weapons deals mean a continuation and escalation of the Yemen War, and perhaps the ongoing proxy conflict in Syria. Trump said the new multi-billion dollar deal would make the military community very happy. He wasn't supposed to frame it that way. It's bad for diplomacy and optics but he was just being truthful.
Obama had feigned concern for the civilians of Yemen and restricted some Saudi weapons sales. He did this to throw a bone to the various 'monitoring' organisations who have been watching with growing concern as the US proxy war has led to a humanitarian crisis, collapse and starvation.
And yet Trump has no such concerns when it comes to appearances, official narratives, and actions which provide a basis for some form of plausible deniability.
The Saudis endured his whore-wife because the American president comes bearing gold and guns. I'm sorry if some think that unkind but it is nevertheless true. And what would happen to Melania if she were a Saudi woman? How would they treat her?
Rouhani is stuck. How can he reach out to a hostile White House? How can he work toward peace and a modus vivendi when Washington has just upped the ante? The ayatollahs are undoubtedly chuckling as Trump's speech has just wounded the process of liberalisation. His speech was a gift to them.
I look for Rouhani to press hard. France comes to mind, or even a desperate-to-be-relevant Britain, though Theresa May is not liked. Tehran can nevertheless work with these Western alternatives as a means to keep things moving during the Trump years.
The thing is, what else will the Trump years bring? And, can the Reformist-Ayatollah dance in Tehran keep slowing down the ticking time clock that is Iranian society?