President Trump could make a hawk out of moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. That‘s the verdict of A-I Monitor columnist and journalist Ali Hashem, Rouhani is a moderate. But an escalation of words from Donald Trump and an upcoming national election might change all that. Hashem offers a good cop-bad cop contrast between Rouhani and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Ayatollah minced no words earlier this month. He said Trump’s hard line on Iran proves “what we have been saying for more than 30 years — we would always speak about the political, economic, moral and social corruption in the U.S.

administration — this man revealed it during the election campaign and since then.” The Ayatollah’s language, in a translation relayed by the New York Times, is mild in comparison to Trump’s bombast. But there can be no doubt that there is more than rhetoric involved. The fate of the world is at stake.

Will Trump push Rouhani to extremes? Hashem notes that Rouhani was elected precisely because he is inclined toward reason and moderation. He has had a diplomatic approach to things. But it will be very hard in a time of escalating rhetoric to keep diplomacy on the table. This is not an idle conjecture.

Trump and the Ayatollah appear to be a match made in hell. Bluster on both sides could harden into threats and threats have a way of leading young men and women into what is politely called harm’s way.

Will Trump regret threatening Iran?

It almost makes you hope for a resounding Rouhani victory this spring in Iran. Assuming Rouhani remains moderate and insists on diplomacy rather than nuke-rattling, there is a chance we may get through this unscathed.

But both Iran and the US have right wings that are fierce in rhetoric and bellicose in attitude. Already speculation is that Rouhani's chances are fading. The hope would then be based on the capacity of two men whose capacity for peaceful action is suspect, to stare into the abyss and say no to further conflict.

Trump wants to build up the US military.

Such growth has led to war in the past. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. We have been in an almost endless war since the beginning of this century. And today things seem to rest on one key economic fact: oil. The corruption that can be adduced from that single word would bury even Trump Tower. We are in a pickle. And the consequence of our actions come spring and summer might confirm Rouhani's mild suggestion that Trump would regret threatening Iran.