A day without the nuke thumbnail just isn’t a day worth blogging.

Take this one with a (small) grain of salt. The Telegraph’s a great paper, but some of Con Coughlin’s stories about Iran are so spectacular as to border on the incredible.

Or not so incredible, as the case may be. Like See-Dub says, if you believe the Telegraph, then our intel estimates about when Iran should have the bomb would be off by a factor of ten. Which, alas, is only too plausible.

“The Iranians are working closely with the North Koreans to study the results of last year’s North Korean nuclear bomb test,” said the European defence official.”We have identified increased activity at all of Iran’s nuclear facilities since the turn of the year,” he said.

“All the indications are that the Iranians are working hard to prepare for their own underground nuclear test.”…

Intelligence estimates vary about how long it could take Teheran to produce a nuclear warhead. But defence officials monitoring the growing co-operation between North Korea and Iran believe the Iranians could be in a position to test fire a low-grade device — less than half a kiloton — within 12 months

The Iranians are reported to have been encouraged by the fact that no punitive action was taken against North Korea, despite the international outcry that greeted the underground firing.

Well, there was punitive action taken. Meaningless punitive action, but still. It also goes without saying that if the Telegraph’s story is true, then Chosun Ilbo’s blockbuster isn’t.

Amir Taheri, no stranger to spectacular/incredible stories himself, says Iran is playing its usual game of good cop/bad cop. Good cop is offering us a grand bargain through back channelsl. Bad cop is killing American soldiers in Iraq:

The Khomeinist leaders have also decided to test the Americans in Iraq. The latest attacks killed U.S. and U.K. soldiers in Karbala and Basra, two Shiite cities that had been calm for the past two years. This was a message to Washington that the Islamic Republic’s clients in Iraq could open dozens of new fronts against the U.S.-led multinational force.

Tehran has also ordered the Mahdi Army militia, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, to disperse its forces throughout central and southern provinces. Hundreds of Iranian-controlled gunmen are moving out of Baghdad, heading for Diwaniyah, Nasseriah, Karbala and Najaf – partly to escape the expected U.S. attack on their stronghold, the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, but also to prepare new positions for anti-U.S. operations.

Ahmadinejad’s counting on the fact, says Taheri, that Bush won’t have the stones to launch a truly damaging attack. Hmmm.

Update: Commenter “NPP” has experience in this field and calls the Telegraph’s article nonsense. Scroll down to see why.