Iran’s leaders seem to have internalized a key lesson: They have nothing to fear from this U.S. president. If they did you wouldn’t see actions like this:

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the 25th death anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, in Tehran June 4, 2014. REUTERS/leader.ir/Handout via Reuters (IRAN - Tags: POLITICS ANNIVERSARY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Reuters)

Iran has conducted “mechanical” tests on a new, advanced machine to refine uranium, a senior official was quoted as saying on Wednesday, a disclosure that may annoy Western states pushing Tehran to scale back its nuclear program.

Iran’s development of new centrifuges to replace its current breakdown-prone model is watched closely by Western officials. It could allow the Islamic Republic to amass potential atomic bomb material much faster.

“Annoy” is an apt description of the sort of reaction these defiant steps provoke from a president whose anger seems to be reserved only for Israel these days. Even more telling was the statement that accompanied the tests: “Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful and that it produces low-enriched uranium only to make fuel for a planned network of atomic energy plants. If processed to a high fissile concentration, uranium can be used for nuclear weapons. ‘Manufacturing and production of new centrifuges is our right,’ Iranian atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said.” Where in the world would the mullahs have got such an idea? No doubt from the interim agreement the administration signed on to (which also includes a sunset clause promising eventual freedom to do whatever Iran likes free from inspectors and restrictions).

Unlike the administration, the Iranian regime understands how to wheel and deal, all the while keeping its eye on its goal of obtaining a nuclear capability. News reports suggest Iran is also “redesigning” its heavy-water plutonium plant at Arak. The regime says this change would produce less nuclear material than it previously did at Arak. Hmm. This smacks of another ploy. Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tells Right Turn: “It is impossible to know from this story whether [Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar] Salehi is talking about a simple design change, a reversible reduction in plutonium production, or a replacement of the metal core that would make it more difficult for the reactor core to hold enough natural uranium fuel to produce a bomb. If the Iranians have agreed to the latter, the White House may try to conclude a partial deal by November 24 where more sanctions relief is trade for concessions on Arak (and, perhaps, some others like turning Fordow into an advanced centrifuge R&D facility).” In either case President Obama would be trading reversible measures for sanctions relief, and betting we will have the ability to tell when Iran reverses its modifications. He says, “This partial deal could then be the basis for another extension to deal with outstanding issues, particularly enrichment capacity. Any such compromise on Arak may also be a sign that a comprehensive deal will be based only on design changes, technical modifications, heightened ‘transparency’ and a short deal duration, where most constraints will disappear in a decade or so.”

Dubowitz concludes, “The Obama administration is not committed to shutting down Iran’s potential bomb-making facilities, dismantling key elements of Iran’s military-nuclear program, or putting in place permanent (or at least decades-long) restrictions that prevent this regime from developing a massive, industrial-size nuclear program with a capability for rapid breakout and easier diversion of nuclear materials to clandestine facilities.” There is a word for this approach: Containment. It is the course many suspect Obama was charting from the get-go. It would be North Korea II, but in a more dangerous region of the world and with a regime supporting terrorist groups. It would represent a violation of the president’s own promises to disarm Iran. One wonders what Hillary Clinton would think of such a deal and whether she’d have the nerve to undo it or cite Iran for violations and re-impose sanctions if she were elected president.

In any case, for those lawmakers who wanted to give “diplomacy a chance,” such a partial deal would be a rude wake-up call. For the rest of us, it would be confirmation that this president was prepared to risk our own national security, set off a Middle East arms race and allow an existential threat to Israel to arise.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.