by Brien Jackson

Do the recent developments in Iran call the regime’s rationality into question? Ezra thinks so, but Eric Martin chides him for it. I tend to agree with Martin, for the simple reason that I keep coming back to a lot of my opinions about the Iranian situation; we don’t really have any hard information about the nature of the actions in Iran. And that’s a pretty relevant piece of information to this question. Namely, it’s very hard to evaluate whether an action is “rational” without knowing exactly who undertook said action, and for exactly what reason. There’s plenty of scenarios to imagine in Iran wherein the election rigging seems perfectly rational, and Tehran Bureau posits the most believable one I’ve seen yet. Namely, Khamieni, Amadinejad, and Ayatollah Yazdi are extreme hard-liners to the right of the Ayatollah Khomieni who don’t believe in the governing structure he set up, or his theological beliefs, and who don’t approve of elections in the first place. They’re afraid that Khamieni will die soon and Rafsanjani, who has led the Assembly of Experts, would be his most likely replacement. With that in mind, this was intended as a showy display that would repudiate Mousavi, another Khomieni ally, and by extension Rafsanjani, and raise the profile of Yazdi. That seems like a perfectly plausible thought process, and completely rational if you believe there was no other way to undercut Rafsanjani. And certainly Khamieni and Yazdi would have a better feel for the mood of the Assembly of Experts than anyone in the West commenting on the situation.

It’s also important to note that international relations is the wrong prism to gauge the rationality of the action through. Elections, particularly in Iran, wouldn’t really have anything to do with the regime’s relationship with the United States, so much as it would be a matter of who wields internal political power.