President Ahmadinejad today.(Aamir QureshiAFP/Getty Images)

Here’s why we should perhaps believe claims like Dennis Ross’ that, despite the Iranian regime’s apparent intransigence, diplomacy has enough of a chance of working that we should at least give it a shot: Iran—not Israel, but Iran—may be running out of options.

Certainly that’s one takeaway from yesterday’s events. On the one hand, Iran trumpeted new nuclear “achievements,” complete with a ceremony involving President Ahmadinejad donning a white lab coat to observe domestically produced fuel rods being put to work. On the other hand, experts suggested the new “advances” were largely trumped up. Said the State Department’s spokesperson, “This is not big news; in fact, it seems to have been hyped.” And also, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s equivalent of a foreign minister, confirmed receiving a letter from Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator which hinted at a willingness to resume talks. The point isn’t that we should believe him. The point is that the combination of bluster and supplication—along with a string of massively failed assassination attempts against Israeli targets in Georgia, India, and Thailand—display a regime that is at best divided and at worst acutely feeling the pressure wrought by sabotage, assassinations, sanctions, a wrecked economy, a devalued currency, and a looming embargo. As one expert told the New York Times,” If there’s a meta-narrative here, it’s that Iran tends to speak loudly but carries a small stick. Their alleged terror attacks projected incompetence more than fear, their announced nuclear progress is likely exaggerated, and their threat to pre-emptively cease oil exports to Europe turned out to be another bluff.”

In an excellent op-ed today, Fareed Zakaria argues that, contrary to so much rhetoric from those contemplating attacking Iran, time may actually be on our side. More specifically: if the histories of World War One and the Cold War are any guide, a strategy of deterrence rather than preemptive attack is soundest. And that goes double if the Iranian regime is less tiger and more paper, as increasingly seems to be the case.

Iran Nuclear Claim Met By Skepticism [LAT]
EU’s Catherine Ashton Has Received Iran’s Letter on Nuclear Talks [Yahoo! The Envoy]
Aggressive Acts By Iran Signal Pressure on Its Leadership [NYT]
How History Lessons Could Deter Iranian Aggression [WP]
Earlier: Dennis Ross on Iran: The Message Is the Medium