I a) disagree with Ezra and b) think he’s being too hard on himself. That is, there is a difference between the rationality of the Iranian regime’s foreign policy and its attitude towards domestic dissent. One can believe that Iran is capable of a rational approach to the implications of its nuclear ambitions while also thinking it capable of behaving irrationally in the face of an internal, domestic threat to its legitimacy. I see no obvious or necessary contradiction between these two things.
There are a couple things to say about this, all of them depressing. First, those of us who have long argued for the fundamental rationality of the Iranian regime have seen our case fundamentally weakened. A rational regime might have stolen the election. But they would not have stolen it like this, where there is no doubt of the theft.
Like pretty much everyone else, I don’t pretend that I understand what’s happening in Iran, but it’s hard not to think that the authorities were taken by surprise by both the initial vote and then the opposition’s determination to make its voice heard. There may be an element of panic at work here and a somewhat frantic effort on the part of the religious authorities to buy some time. Maybe. I don’t know. We’re all fumbling in the dark here. Alternatively, of course, the scale of the fraud may have been designed to send the bluntest of blunt messages to the opposition.
This is a domestic uprising, albeit one that obviously has implications for Iran’s relationship with the rest of the world. But, as best I can tell, there’s no suggestion that, right now at least, there’s not much that’s happening in Iran that has much bearing on the country’s foreign policy, let alone its nuclear ambitions.