They had thirty days to stop enriching uranium. What’d they do? Announced that they’re going to speed up enriching uranium. Now the deadline’s here, and despite some eleventh-hour disclosure to soften ElBaradei up, it sounds like he’s going to come down pretty hard on Iran in his report.

The consequences of which will be … nothing, of course. Emphasis mine:

Russia and China … haven’t budged on their opposition to imposing Security Council sanctions on Iran, and the U.S. isn’t even going to try to get a sanctions resolution now. Instead, the U.S. and its key allies will push for another Security Council resolution, reiterating the demand for Iran to cease enrichment activities under Chapter 7 of the U.N.’s charter — which would deem the issue a threat to global security, making non-compliance punishable by sanctions or even military action. Even that may be further than Russia and China are prepared to go. Indeed, U.S. officials have been tamping down expectations of Security Council action, talking instead about assembling a “coalition of the willing” outside of U.N. channels to pressure Iran through financial and other measures.

The “willing,” this time, may not be many.

Bush tried to lean on Hu Jintao when he was in Washington last week, reportedly to no avail. There is some “good news,” though — Republicans and Democrats have at last reached a consensus on something. Remember it the next time you hear someone on Hardball say that Iran’s absolutely, definitely, no-doubt-about-it a decade or more away from having nuclear weapons.

The most intriguing cloak-and-dagger analysis I’ve read is Debka’s, although Debka being Debka, you never know how seriously to take it. For example, here’s what they say is one of the U.S.’s main objectives in negotiating with Iran behind the scenes:

To lay the groundwork for an alternative Middle East nuclear bloc hinging on Saudi Arabia and Egypt, i.e. a rival Arab nuclear program. Iran was meant to be brought up short by the discovery that if it goes all the way to an N- bomb, so too will its Arab opposite numbers. This race carries the extreme potential of pitting Sunni and Shiite nuclear powers on a collision course.

Emphasis mine. Iran will get the bomb, and we’ll respond … by giving the bomb to the Saudis. What could go wrong?

Let’s file that one away as “unlikely.” More likely is this bit, also from Debka:

Tehran is confident that its influence in Iraqi politics outweighs Washington’s by virtue of its ties with Iraqi parties and Shiite militias and its intelligence network. The Iranians are therefore letting the US-backed Jawad al-Maliki take over as prime minister because they believe they hold the key to the crucial defense and interior appointments. They expect pro-Tehran SCIRI leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim to land these jobs for Badr Organization commanders, preferably Abdel Mahdi, all of whose top echelon are under Tehran’s thumb.

On that note, the World Tribune reported Tuesday that Iraq is building 45 forts to try to seal its border with Iran. Which is super, but would have been more super, say, two and a half years ago. Sealing the border won’t do much about the nuclear problem anyway, which allegedly now threatens London and Paris as much as Tel Aviv. In fact, here’s Khamenei boasting just the other day about how far Iran’s reach extends. Click the image for video.


Both Debka, in the analysis linked above, and Time magazine assert that it’s Khamenei who’s calling the shots on nuclear weapons, and that this nut — seen palling around with Sudanese butcher Omar al-Bashir — is there mainly to play bad cop to the mullahs’ good cop. Or worse cop to their bad cop. Whatever; it’s hard to keep score sometimes in this particular game of “Who’s Crazier?” Regardless, Israel has a new eye in the sky to keep track of it all.

As for the people of Iran, life is as mellow, hopeful, and tolerant as it’s ever been. Michael Rubin might tell you otherwise, but he’s with AEI — “neocon, Zionist conspiracy central,” as he describes it — so make sure you discount his opinion accordingly.

And cue Alan Dershowitz.