The reports coming out of Iran on Thursday, through a heavy layer of censorship, suggest that the regime has managed to survive the important test of the Islamic revolution's 31st anniversary. Millions may have taken to the streets, but most of them were supporters of the regime, while thousands of security personnel were used to violently suppress opposition demonstrations.
Nor did President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad miss the opportunity to deliver yet another threat to the world, announcing that Iran has already become a nuclear state.
During the celebrations the regime staged for itself on Thursday, emphasis was put on the country's nuclear program. The main rally was turned into one big demonstration in support of the program, accompanied by Ahmadinejad's regular vows that Israel's end is near. The president announced that his country has managed to enrich uranium to a level of 20 percent, and that it is capable of raising the level of enrichment to 80 percent, which is close to what is needed for making nuclear weapons. However, Ahmadinejad added, Iran is not doing this, because it is not interested in doing so.
It appears the regime is keen to rally broad public support for its nuclear program as a flagship achievement, at a time of growing isolation abroad and economic difficulties at home.
Without a revolution inside Iran, the Obama administration seems to have little choice but to rally broad international support for imposing substantive sanctions on Tehran. The dilemma facing the Americans and Europeans is to what extent tough measures can be directed only at the regime, so that they do not boomerang and rally popular support for the ayatollahs.
Various simulations held by research institutes in the United States and Israel suggest that the Iranians are much more focused on their goal than the West is, and are thus likely to be able to squeeze further concessions from the international community.
Israel is concerned that a gap will develop between its aims, which are to bring Iran's nuclear program to a complete halt, and Washington's aims, which are apparently to get Iran to resume negotiations - which would undoubtedly produce a less decisive outcome.
Another issue of concern is that the second anniversary of the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah terrorist mastermind whose demise the radical Lebanese organization blames on Israel, is this weekend. Hezbollah wants revenge, and Israeli intelligence agencies think it is likely to try attack Israeli targets overseas, in an effort to hide its involvement.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now