What might appear to be part of a systematic strategy by Iran to provoke its enemies, however, may instead be the latest episode in a decades-long pattern of Iranian factions and even "freelancers" using violence and provocative acts to undermine rivals at home – even at the risk of making Iran more vulnerable to attacks from abroad.
The Nov. 29 attack on the British embassy has been cast by analysts as part of a power struggle between Iran's archconservative factions, with some trying to undermine President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"The argument that Iranians are very strategic is [wrong]. They are very tactical: They think very much in terms of the next move, and not where they want to end up," says Shahram Chubin, an Iran specialist based in Geneva for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
All critical debates in Iran today are among ruling but fractious conservatives, with almost no input from the emasculated liberal opposition, he says.
"There's no one to say: 'Hey, have we thought through what this means, because if we alienate the international community, and antagonize the EU all over again, won't we be more vulnerable to an Israeli attack?' " says Mr. Chubin.