It's hard to read exactly what is going on and who is calling the shots in an Iranian regime that is divided within itself, despised by a large majority of its population, and veering from one signal to another. But the working hypothesis that what has really been going on these past few years is an internal coup by the Revolutionary Guards, made brutally manifest by the response to the Green Revolution, is confirmed by news today of a defiant upping of the nuclear ante with a pledge by Tehran to build ten more nuclear enrichment plants and to decrease cooperation with the IAEA. Whether this is a serious threat or not is in dispute:
Some saw the actions as saber-rattling against the United States, its allies, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and even doubted whether Iran could build 10 plants.
"They don’t have the capability. They’d like to have it," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and National Security in Washington. “You have to look under the surface. They’re mad about the IAEA resolution.” “It’s playground behavior in a way," he said of the Iranian statements.
Practically speaking, it means that Iran has now all but completely isolated itself from international support.
With China, Russia and India backing Friday's IAEA admonishment of Iran, the mullahs have thrown a tantrum. I tend to share Juan Cole's skepticism that Putin or Hu will ever agree to real sanctions on Iran, but recent events have certainly made real international sanctions more likely. Indeed, if you support such sanctions, you will surely have to admit that Obama's steady diplomacy, his work with the Chinese and Russians, and his willingness to let France and Germany take the lead at times has isolated Iran more successfully than Bush's sabre-rattling ever did.