Recent events surrounding Iran's nuclear program have certainly stirred up a hornets' nest of concerned observers. First, Iran admitted the existence of secret nuclear enrichment plant that led to even Iran's erstwhile allies of Russia and China to issue rebukes. Then today, to wrap up two days of war games, Iran tested upgraded versions of its most advanced medium-range missiles -- the Shahab-3 and the Sajjil, both of which have ranges sufficient to threaten Europe and Israel. Coming on the heels of the UN General Assembly meeting, these developments have seemed to create a new impetus for tightening the screws on Iran in an effort to prevent Iran from developing an extant nuclear weapons capability (while the US believes Iran is close to having the ability to assemble a nuclear bomb on short notice it does not claim that Iran presently has any functional nuclear weapons). Additionally, in the wake of the decision by the Obama administration to scrap plans to deploy a ballistic missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia had made noises indicating it may be willing to impose stricter sanctions on Iran for its uncooperative behavior and unwillingness to comport to its international obligations.
All of this makes for an important crossroads for President Obama and his preferred course of foreign policy. Obama has pursued, as he did during his electoral campaign, a strategy of "negotiate first." However to date Obama's offer of negotiations have been rewarded with very little success, largely because Iran has had little reason to respond. Iran most likely sees nuclear weapons as a critical component of its national interest, both to defend itself against the US (and Israel) but also to increase its regional power. Because the US has been offering negotiations from a position of weakness, Iran was able to ignore the calls to talk about its nuclear program.
Now, however, Obama has a real opportunity to increase the pressure on Iran and make it impossible for Iran to continue to avoid negotiating. France and Great Britain are both ramping up the rhetoric and have expressed their willingness to support tougher sanctions, as have Russia and China, although it's still far from certain what Russia will actually do when it comes time to enact (or enforce) increased sanctions. Obama must exploit this window of opportunity to impose tougher conditions on Iran prior to continuing discussions. Obama must move quickly to exploit the international furor at Iran's secret enrichment facility and the current Russian goodwill. If the moment had been exploited, sanctions can be put in place that could force Iran to negotiate seriously; sanctions could even be put in place with an automatic waiver to suspend them in the event Iran chooses to open meaningful negotiations.
If Obama sticks to his "negotiate first" policy and refuses to push the Security Council to impose more serious penalties on Iran for its intransigence, he will not only have missed a golden opportunity. He will also expose his foreign policy as toothless and ill-suited for the turbulent world of international relations. If, however, he realizes that serious negotiations fundamentally depend on serious consequences (or at the least the threat of serious consequences), he may be able to take advantage of the currently open window of opportunity and lay the groundwork for a meaningful international coalition to deal with Iran.