Here's my prediction for where the Iran situation is going. Israel has a more limited ability to strike, and so the United States can wait longer. On this basis, the U.S. will persuade Israel to wait, and the U.S. will then be the only force that could stop Iran from getting the bomb. The U.S. will say that all options are on the table, and say that sanctions need more time, et cetera. Then Iran will do an above-ground nuclear test, Obama and Panetta will say "oops we waited too long", and the head of the CIA or NSA will be fired.
That seems like the most likely scenario to me. It's not a very pretty scenario, nor is it a complete scenario, inasmuch as it omits what happens next (e.g. nuclear arms race in the Middle East, possible Iranian attack on Israel, possible handoff of nukes to terrorists, etc.). The other alternative scenarios look kind of scary too, such as a pre-emptive war with Iran.
Syria is a close ally of Iran, and it's hard to believe that what's happening in Syria now is merely coincidental with the confrontation with Iran regarding nukes. If Assad were forced out, that would probably have a bigger impact on Iranian decision-making than any sanctions placed on Iran.
Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton seem competent, and General Petraeus (DCI) is extremely competent. But competence may not be enough in this instance. I'm not making any specific suggestions or recommendations here, because I don't have all the facts.
Among the pertinent facts are what exactly the Iranian leaders have said they want to do to Israel, and vice versa. If the Iranians are clearly making unprovoked threats of annihilation, then it would be foolish to not act preemptively against Iran. But the costs of preemptive action could be pretty staggering.
Forget about economic sanctions and negotiations. I doubt they'll make any difference.
President Obama has not been prepping the American people, nor has he been insisting on much action by the United Nations. So, the costs of action against Iran have not even been factored into the stock market, much less into Iranian decision-making.
Iran has said that it would be sinful to develop nuclear weapons, but doubtless they could rationalize doing so based on others (like Israel) having done so.
There are about a dozen wildcards here, ranging from a possibly imminent attack by Israel, to use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. or Israel to adequately penetrate underground Iranian facilities.
Iran would be smart to allow full transparency. They have no immediate need for nuclear weapons. Their arch-enemy Sadaam has been removed from Iraq, and the US has left Iraq too. Israel is a tiny country that poses no threat to Iran if Iran sticks with conventional weapons. But don't count on rationality in Teheran.
The situation in North Korea is a troubling precedent for proliferation. China seems largely responsible for that fact, and China (with Russia) has also blocked UN action against Syria. I don't see why China thinks it is in its interest for lots of unstable countries to have nuclear weapons. And journalists in China are not likely to press their leaders for answers on that score. Maybe what we need here is for Anderson Cooper and Brett Baier to go camp out at the Forbidden City until they get some answers.