As another deadline approaches for Iran to demonstrate its willingness to abandon the nuclear weapons it so clearly desires, both sides have reacted in a predictable manner.  The US reminded Iran that this time we are really, really, really super-serious about it, while Iran scoffs at the threat.  In fact, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran has grown “10 times stronger” on Barack Obama’s watch.

First, let’s start with the exercise in impotence at the White House:

The White House is warning Iran’s leader to take seriously a year-end deadline over its nuclear program, responding sternly to defiant language by the Iranian president. …

Otherwise, Washington and its allies are warning of new, tougher sanctions on Iran.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Ahmadinejad may not recognize the deadline but “it is a very real deadline for the international community.”

Yes, because the West has proven so determined in the past that Iran should be shaking in its boots now.  Ahmadinejad is shaking, all right, but it’s from laughter:

Iran’s president on Tuesday dismissed a year-end deadline set by the Obama administration and the West for Tehran to accept a U.N.-drafted deal to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel, and claimed his government is now “10 times stronger” than a year ago.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s remarks underscored Tehran’s defiance amid the nuclear standoff — and also sought to send a message that his government had not been weakened by the protest movement sparked by June’s disputed presidential election. His comments came a day after the latest opposition protest by tens of thousands mourning a dissident cleric who died over the weekend.

Obama missed his chance to encourage that unrest and give it full-throated support in its early days.  Instead, Obama focused on personal messages to Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, feeling that all Iran needed was the personal touch to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony.  The moment for real change has largely (but not entirely) passed in Iran, and the mullahs feel a little more secure in their ability to hold power.

Besides, why should Iran take Obama or the West seriously?  There hasn’t been a deadline yet that Iran hasn’t been able to manipulate, thanks to their Russian and Chinese allies.  They have nine days to once again offer a compromise, which will create another weeks-long study period of inaction.  If the West rejects that, a new deadline will be set.  If the West accepts it, Iran will change its conditions enough to force the West to reject it, which will start the process all over again.  Even if that fails, Iran knows that Russia and China will not accept any new sanctions that damage their export business to Iran, so the Western threat is empty — as the West keeps proving.

Tehran is laughing at the West.  And for good reason.  The Iranians seem to be the only ones taking this seriously.