It has already been widely reported that Iran had designs for shaped Uranium charges, critical to producing a warhead,
what has not been widely reported is that Israel is testing its anti-missile system
against Iranian missile simulation. Iran, for its part is seeking to acquire more advanced Russian missiles
which might be able to defeat the "Arrow" system. This is particularly troubling given that the IAEA admits that weaponization is "out of the tube"
meaning that it is no longer a large step from production of warheads to mounting them on missiles.
Iran's intent to be a nuclear nation is not new, indeed, it dates to the previous regime of the Shah, and has been a 5 decade long process that has proceded in fits and starts. It is extremely unlikely that any regime based in Tehran will accept having Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel as declared or semi-declared powers, and other neighbors with ready access to "weapons grade" fissiles being held to anything less than a short sprint from a full nuclear deterent status. Regime change has not dulled the geo-political realities, nor will it in future.
Thus the current march to confrontation is high drama and farce at the same time. On one had there are logisitical problems to either a US or Israeli strike which constrain the target package, and focus a great deal of importance on devastating the main reactor beyond reasonable repair in a single strike. They also run into the problem of Iran's capacity for intervention in theatres of current operation - including Iraq.
The referal, despite China and Russia's expressed preference for continued diplomacy, means that the tug of war is going to escalate. However, Iran's most important defense is not atoms, but oil. While it would be of limited use to cut off oil supplies to the West, despite sabre rattling in that direction, the threat of a shut down in the event of a military crisis is more than the fragile economies of the West could bear - losing a mere 1mpbd spiked oil to historic highs that rivaled 1918 and 1981 - the loss of Iran's 4mbpd would almost certainly force painful adjustment and recession.
This is the farce. Iran does not benefit from conflict, nor does the West. Iran does not want to miss one day of the best oil market in history, nor does the West want to stumble into a massive recession. Iran needs the West, the West needs Iran. The question then is how close to being a nuclear state Iran will be allowed to be at the end of the day. It is likely that this will be below fully opperational status, but not so far that a determined regime could not create questions as to exactly how close they were.
Brinksmanship is back, and we are living in a pre-war, not post-war, world.
It is at this point that temptations to unilateralism need to be tamed, and the focus needs to be placed on the UN, and the mechanisms set up to deal with these situations. Anyone who talks about unilateral options is engaging in wishful thinking, the era of assymetrical threats would mean that such an action would put in play atomic terrorism, engaged in by non-deterrable actors. Instead it is absolutely essential that the E3 persuad both the United States and the Asian land powers of Russia and China that neither leveling, nor laissez-faire, policies are appropriate.
This is indeed a crisis which requires rapid action and forceful diplomacy, particularly since military options are both dangerous and of questionable long term effectiveness.