For years, we have written about the repeated stall tactics Iran employs to continue its work to produce nuclear weapons.  When sanctions bite a little too hard, Tehran agrees to talks, sounding reasonable and making promises of compromise.  When its opponents in the P5+1 talks begin to squabble amongst themselves and both Russia and China quail from enforcing the sanctions, Iran walks away under the pretense of some sort of insult.  It’s as regular and predictable as Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football, and has been for the last decade.

The UN’s non-proliferation agency seems to have finally figured this out:

The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said on Monday talks with Iran have been “going around in circles” – unusually blunt criticism pointing to rising tension over suspected nuclear arms research by Tehran that has increased fears of a new Middle East war.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, vented growing frustration at the lack of results in getting Iran to address suspicions of military dimensions to its atomic energy program. Tehran denies the accusations.

In hard-hitting comments to the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors, he also said Iranian advances in building a heavy-water research reactor and in its uranium enrichment work were in “clear contravention” of U.N. Security Council resolutions, dating to 2006, calling for a suspension in such activities.

The IAEA has been trying since early 2012 to engage with the Islamic state over what the Vienna-based U.N. agency calls the “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear program.

But ten rounds of negotiations in the last 17 months have failed to achieve any breakthrough. Western diplomats accuse Iran of stonewalling the IAEA, an allegation Tehran rejects.

“Despite the intensified dialogue between the agency and Iran since January 2012…, no agreement has been reached on the structured approach document. To be frank, for some time now we have been going around in circles,” said Amano.

To be frank, we’ve been going around in circles since the existence of Iran’s secret nuclear program became known in 2003.  Iran has shown no interest in curtailing their pursuit of nuclear weapons in the ten years since.  Why should they?  The UN has imposed sanctions that routinely get broken, which means that the regime can bolster its position while the Iranian people suffer.

Normally, that would produce serious political instability and an opportunity for the international community to leverage it to get rid of a rogue regime.  In fact, that did happen in 2009.  Unfortunately, the world stood around with its thumb up its collective backside as a truly grassroots and truly democratic movement — the Green Revolution — stalled in its tracks as the US initially proclaimed that the farcical elections four years ago produced a legitimate president in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Ironically, four years later, the same administration that couldn’t lift a finger to help a rational, secular democratic movement in Iran now wants to stage a military intervention in Syria on behalf of an opposition composed mainly of radical Islamist networks, including a major al-Qaeda affiliate.  That comes two years after doing the same thing in Libya and unleashing AQ on Mali and turning most of Libya into a failed state.  Talk about going around in circles…