Iran Keeps the Provocations Coming

After Iran's release of 15 British naval crew members, who have become instant heroes at home and now say the Iranians mistreated them and forced them to falsely confess to wrongdoing, Iranian TV has struck back with video of two new national heroes of its own.

First, it showed an embrace between Iran's foreign minister and an Iranian diplomat, Jalal Sharafi, who was freed Tuesday after being abducted in Iraq two months ago. Sharafi claimed the CIA tortured him while asking about Iran's relationships with Iraqi militants, though the United States denies any involvement in his detention.

"Once they heard my response that Iran merely has official relations with the Iraqi government and officials, they intensified tortures and tortured me through different methods days and nights," Sharafi told Iranian television, according to the Associated Press.

Second, there's been a ceremony honoring the naval commander who captured the British crew in disputed Gulf waters.

An international security analyst has told ABC News that Iran, having tested reaction to the "Gulf boat" incident in which it seized and held the British troops, is likely to provoke another international crisis because it now believes that Western nations have limited response options.

"The Iranians enjoy being the bad guys in the region," said Sajjan Gohel, international security analyst for the Asia-Pacific Foundation. "They don't care what the international community thinks of them.

"Since the '79 revolution, they've always pursued an aggressive and hostile policy toward the West," he added. "And that's the irony: There is nothing that can be done effectively to prevent a situation like this from happening again."

Gohel believes the core problem for the United States and other western nations in dealing with Iran on the nuclear issue and other concerns -- such as allegations that Iran is sponsoring terrorism in Iraq -- is that the Iranian leadership understands that the West is reluctant to risk a wider Mideast conflict by attacking Iran.

"We have to keep in mind that the relationship between Iran and the U.K. and U.S. will get worse primarily because of the situation in Iraq," he said. "Iran has a different vision as to what Iraq is to become in the future, and they are biding their time and waiting for an opportunity to get further strategic depth inside the country."

On the streets of Tehran, BBC News interviewed some ordinary Iranians, who expressed outrage over British claims that it's sailors were mistreated and forced to confess.

"The sailors should have said what really happened, without any distortion, without being forced to play a propaganda game," said one unidentified man.

Another Iranian man said: "It would have been enough to just say thank you. This is the simplest, most decent thing the British could have done."

In London, Iran's ambassador was quoted by the Financial Times as asking Britain for a show of goodwill by supporting Iran's nuclear program -- a major source of tension for Iran with the United States and Britain.

The British media seems to agree that Iran ran circles about the British militarily and politically.

"They [Iran] were able to show that they can capture the headlines," Gohel said. "The Iranian regime simply wanted to make a symbolic point that they could do what they wanted within their region, that there was nothing the U.K. or the U.S. could do to try to stop it. They have gained a lot of notoriety and support inside the wider Middle East, which is worrying."

What will be the likely Western response if Iran provokes another incident?

"The U.S. and the U.K. have virtually no options to tackle Iran militarily because of the fact they know the Iranians will react aggressively," Gohel said.

The Iranians know that hard-hitting European economic sanctions, which could be the most effective weapon against them, are unlikely because many European nations don't want to lose Iranian trade.

Some analysts seem to think the United States and United Kingdom seem to be between a rock and a hard place -- called Iran.