National Security & Defense

The Corner

Stop Calling Iran’s Jihadist President ‘Moderate’

The verdict is in. According to a New York Times analysis, while Trump was cementing his ties to Arab autocrats, a “moderate” was busy winning re-election in Iran:

As voters in Iran danced in the streets, celebrating the landslide re-election of a moderate as president, President Trump stood in front of a gathering of leaders from across the Muslim world and called on them to isolate a nation he said had “fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.”

That nation was Iran.

In using the headline address of his first foreign trip as president to declare his commitment to Sunni Arab nations, Mr. Trump signaled a return to an American policy built on alliances with Arab autocrats, regardless of their human rights records or policies that sometimes undermine American interests.

And lest you think I’m picking on the Times, the word “moderate” dominated coverage of Hassan Rouhani’s re-election, including at CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. What a ridiculous farce. In reality, an anti-American jihadist beat a slightly-worse anti-American jihadist. 

Under Rouhani (who truly rules by the permission of Iran’s Guardian Council, a coalition of clerics and jurists that vets all presidential candidates), Iran has exported terror, propped up a genocidal Syrian regime, kidnapped and humiliated U.S. sailors, tested ballistic missiles in defiance of the U.N. Security Council, and — as the Post reported last month — actually “boosted” the regime’s support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

This is yet another reason why it’s so difficult to trust media reporting from the Muslim world. If the definition of the word “moderate” now includes any leader a few degrees more reasonable (maybe) than the Quds Force, then the term has no real meaning. In fact, it’s deceptive. When an American hears the word “moderate,” they might think of, say, Michael Bloomberg or Lindsey Graham. Rouhani, by contrast, is orders of magnitude more radical than any domestic elected official.

Words matter, and when the media uses a common term that has a common American meaning, it should take care that the term applies. When it comes to Iran’s president, it doesn’t. He’s an anti-American jihadist. There is no moderation here. 

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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