UPDATE 1050 GMT: Another useful analysis, this time from Juan Cole. Cole first offers a detailed background with his "breakout" thesis on Iran's nuclear programme:
Tehran genuinely does not want to actually construct and detonate a nuclear device....But having a rapid breakout capability --- being able to make a bomb in short order if it is felt absolutely necessary to forestall a foreign attack --- has a deterrent effect. So Iran would have the advantages of deterrence without the disadvantages of a bomb if it could get to the rapid breakout stage.
Cole's immediate reading of the current position is hit-and-miss: he's on shaky ground with his analysis that the Revolutionary Guard has vetoed the Supreme Leader's acceptance of an enrichment deal (I don't think anyone except Ayatollah Khamenei knows what he will do), but Cole is invaluable in reading the non-Iranian politics: don't expect BRIC (Brazil-Russia-India-China) to accept a move towards harsh economic measures agianst Tehran.
And Cole's conclusion hits the bull's-eye:
Bottom line: Friday's vote was likely symbolic and a signal to Iran from the international community that there is discomfort with its secretiveness and lack of transparency, and that many are suspicious of its motives. In China's case, it may have been a warning against actions that could harm the Middle Kingdom's burgeoning economy. What it likely was not was a harbinger of tougher international sanctions against Tehran or a sign that BRIC is softening on that issue
UPDATE 0950 GMT: A ray of journalistic light --- Sharwine Narwani offers an excellent analysis, "Eleventh-hour CPR On Iran Nuclear Talks": "Our core problem is not with Iran's enrichment program or it's recently revealed Fordow nuclear plant buried under a mountainside. The central issue clogging up our hotlines is that we do not trust Iran. And they do not trust us."
Looking once more at yesterday's International Atomic Energy Agency resolution on Iran's nuclear programme, it is a most impressive two-card trick by the US Government.
Impressive initially because the first trick is on the media. So far, every major journalist whom I've read or listened to has been taken in by the magician's display of a united "hard line" against Tehran. CNN headlines, "U.N. watchdog urges suspension of Iran nuclear facility", never realising that the 2nd enrichment facility at Fordoo is now just a distraction. The New York Times, in print and in podcast, follows the same sleight-of-hand, adding the flourish that the "sharp rebuke that bore added weight because it was endorsed by Russia and China".
How did the White House pull off this trick?
Easily, with a sustained effort in Washington as well as Vienna, to put out the distracting message. Beyond the official statement trumpeting the "broad consensus" behind the resolution, "a senior administration official" added:
What happened in Vienna today is a significant step, and it’s a sign of the increasing seriousness of the international community [and its] growing international impatience....Time really is running out. We hope that the board of governors [vote] reinforces the message that, you know, we’re committed to putting together a package of consequences if we don’t find a willing partner.
How then to uncover the trick and reveal the real strategy of the Obama Administration? Well, the unnamed official offered a sneak peek in those final words "if we don't find a willing partner". At this point, at least some key members of the Obama Administration are still pursuing "willingness".
To be blunt, because that seems to be necessary to knock professional observers out of their wide-eyed daze: the White House has not closed off the talks for a deal of Iran's nuclear enrichment.
Those officials who want a deal, primarily those in the State Department but also I suspect the President, are not willing to give up on months of effort, and they certainly do not want to face both the diplomatic difficulties of pursuing tough sanctions --- watch how quickly it becomes near-impossible to maintain that line of "broad consensus" --- and facing the consequences. It will no longer be a question of losing possible co-operation with Tehran in areas like Afghanistan but of facing possible Iranian counter-moves in the region, including Iraq.
At the same time, those pro-deal officials are fighting a contest against Administration colleagues who just want to go through the motions of negotiations to set up the increased pressure of harsh economic measures. Those colleagues (to find them, go to the National Security Council and follow the path to a Mr D. Ross' office) are the ones spinning newspapers like The Washiington Post that this IAEA resolution is the symbolic step to a sanctions regime which will include Russia and China. (They also are the ones willing to play up the "Israeli military action" that would follow if sanctions are not adopted.)
So the IAEA magic-show pulls out two tricks: it holds the Obama White House together while setting a very real line on the discussions with Iran. The Ahmadinejad Government and the Supreme Leader are being told publicly that "third-party enrichment" has to occur outside Iran; no swaps of uranium inside the country. This is getting close to a take-it-or-leave-it declaration to the regime.
But what if Ahmadinejad and/or Khamenei says "Leave It"? Then, I suspect, you'll see the magic evaporate. For while Ross and others wanting a showdown may get it, I'm not sure they have thought through their next tricks.