As negotiators from the UN Security Council (+ Germany) prepare to sit down with Iran in the next few days to discuss the country’s nuclear program, Iran has decided to saber-rattle by test-firing new long-range missiles. This comes on the heels of another troubling announcement from the Obama administration: Iran is constructing a new nuclear plant at Fardou.

With the United States and the Europeans pushing for tougher sanctions, and the Russians and Chinese still kicking their feet around in the sand, the UN Security Council may face yet another impasse on the Iranian nuclear issue. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel is certainly going to voice for serious action, and may even act unilaterally to curb Iran’s program. All this has placed the Obama administration in a tough spot–forcing it to, on the one hand, impose sanctions while, on the other, constrain Israel from acting.

Why has Iran chosen now as the moment to test these missiles? To escalate tensions between the US and Israel and to signal its unwillingness to compromise on its nuclear program. Even if sanctions succeed they will not preclude Iran from finishing its nuclear weapons program, argues Blake Hounshell. It’s a diplomatic quandary with no easy answers: either you let Iran obtain the bomb (and become a threat to Israel’s existence and make a mockery of the non-proliferation treaty) or you force Iran “militarily”–bomb it–to abandon its program (and destabilize the entire Middle East).

One option, that I find oddly appealing at this late hour, is offered by Anne Applebaum at The United States should destabilize the Iranian regime through a global human rights campaign; the President should hold up pictures of dead and beaten Iranian protesters; and the United States should support Iranian dissidents to the fullest extent.