Having resumed uranium enrichment, has the Islamic Republic crossed the Rubicon? The question is dividing commentators and decision-makers both inside and outside Iran.
Some, such as the former US vice-president Al Gore, believe that Iran is a threat to world peace and must be checked, by force if necessary.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might even welcome such attacks in the hope they will lift the uncertainty that is damaging the Iranian economy and undermining his authority.
First, the attacks demonstrated that when the American Damocles sword falls, it does only limited damage.
Today, we face a similar situation with Iran. As long as no regime change is on the agenda the leadership in Tehran would not be swayed by air raids or missile attacks.
The new Tehran leadership is flattered by the fact that the US is treating it as an almost equal adversary rather than a ramshackle Third World regime.
If Gore's idea of a muscular answer to Iran is out, should we adopt Clinton's scenario for negotiations?
Here is why: to persuade Tehran to negotiate it would be necessary to postpone referring its dossier to the United Nations' Security Council. And that is precisely what Tehran is working hard to achieve.
Tehran would like nothing better than a resumption of talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for postponing any action by the Security Council. To lubricate things along the way Tehran might even offer to introduce another "temporary suspension" of its uranium enrichment programme within a year or two.
At the same time the Tehran leadership wants to keep the focus on the nuclear issue.
Manuchehr Motakki, the new Islamic foreign minister, has used a Persian proverb to explain Tehran's diplomacy: "There is hope from pillar to pillar!"
This means that Islamic diplomacy is geared to achieve two things: first, to prevent the emergence of a consensus among the major powers on regime change in Iran and, secondly, to keep the major powers engaged in an open-ended talking process. Thus, Clinton's analysis would play right into the hands of Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian analysis is based on the belief that the current American strategy is the product of "a moment of madness under President George W. Bush".
All the talk in Tehran, and by extension in Damascus where the Islamic republic has now established itself as the principal supporter of the Syrian regime, is about "the three-year endurance course" that consists of what is left of Bush's second and final term in office.
It is on the basis of that analysis that Tehran will not enter any negotiations that would question its right to develop what Ahmadinejad describes as "a full scientific nuclear cycle".
The irony of all this is that the Bush administration has played the part assigned to it in the Iranian script. It has thrown its lot with the advocates of diplomacy and soft-power thus giving Ahmadinejad the assurance that there will be no unilateral American action against the Islamic republic.
At the same time, Washington is doing enough sabre-rattling to give credence to Ahmadinejad's claim that a "clash of civilisations" is under way with Iran leading one camp and the US another.
If the resolutions of the Security Council are meant to serve as sticks, it is already clear that they do not perform that function as far as the Islamic republic is concerned. A regime that claims a world leadership in a "clash of civilisations" and promises to "save the world from total Americanisation" will not be swayed by such classical tactics.
When it comes to dealing with Iran neither the Gore scenario nor the Clinton alternative are likely to work.
So, what is to be done? Ah, that requires another column, doesn't it?
Iranian author Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.