Its response to Soleimani’s death-by-drone will answer a question that has attended every discussion about Iran since 1979: is the Islamic Republic a rational actor?

Plenty of smart people — including military men such as General Martin Dempsey, former Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff — say it is. Other foreign-policy thinkers take the more nuanced view that Iran is rational without being reasonable: It has different priorities from those of its enemies, but its behavior is entirely logical in the context of those priorities.

My own view is that the regime has just one priority: its own perpetuation. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has demonstrated repeatedly in his three decades in charge that his sole objective is to preserve the peculiar form government that vests him with vast power over his people with little accountability. But his pursuit of that priority is as likely to be informed by ideology as it is by logic, as much by paranoia as it is by pragmatism.