The United States is preparing more unilateral sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program, adding to a fourth round of U.N. sanctions announced last month. Iran says it is postponing resumption of nuclear talks because of the international pressure.
Iran says it will only resume talks on its nuclear program in late August. But even that comes with a built-in extension. The period falls during Ramadan, the religious month of fasting when little hard work gets done. And then there is the Eid al-Fitr holiday, likely pushing any talks well into September. If they do resume then, nearly a year will have passed since the U.N. backed a Western offer meant to resolve the question of Iran's uranium enrichment.
British American Security Information Council executive Paul Ingram says he believes recent actions by both sides are part of a vicious circle.
"Having just being sanctioned, I think, is probably the dominant reason why they are finding it difficult to come back to the negotiating table at this point in time," said Ingram "Timing, when it comes to diplomatic negotiations is very important and the overriding sense from both sides, both Iran and the West, is that they need to ensure that they do not lose face by appearing to give in to pressure from either side," he explained.
Washington has led international efforts to convince Tehran to stop enriching uranium, which the United States and other countries suspect is for eventual use in nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is purely civilian, and it suspects the deal offered last year was a trick to confiscate its uranium.
When Iran finally agreed in May to a similar deal offered by Turkey and Brazil, it had nearly doubled its uranium stockpile, undermining the point of the original offer of sending the bulk of its supply abroad.
Cairo University Political Science Professor Hassan Nafae argues Tehran is clever to turn its attention to up-and-coming powers.
"Iran thinks it has already reached an agreement with Brazil and Turkey, so it considers that this kind of agreement is a proof that it has real, good intentions to go on with a peaceful settlement to the crisis," said Nafae. "So, I do not think that Iran will accord any attention to any other solution rather than the solution it has agreed upon with Brazil and Turkey. I do believe that Iran behaves as if the international community will not be as solid, as unified, to do otherwise," he said.
Professor Nafae says Iran is also counting on a reluctance to break the impasse with anything stronger than diplomacy.
"I think it is gaining some time. And I believe Iran is excluding any military attack and maybe think that nobody will dare to attack Iran militarily and, if it does happen, there will be maybe a regional war, and neither the United States nor Israel will support the consequences of a regional war," said Nafae.
Paul Ingram counters that Iran's continued stalling could be a dangerous game. He concedes the United States has a long way to go to convince other nations that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, a case made harder by Washington's claims about Iraq before its war there.
But Ingram adds as Iran continues to accumulate the technology and the materials that concern the West, it becomes more difficult to know at what point military action becomes a possibility.
"I think that the Iranians have looked at the possibilities and concluded that, by and large, it is not really a credible option," said Ingram. "The trouble is that there are no credible options in the eyes of the West. And certainly accommodation of Iran as a nuclear-weapon state is not yet a step people are prepared to contemplate."
Ingram says with the West facing a diplomatic deadlock, Iran needs to be more cautious and reconsider whether delaying talks with the West really gives it the upper hand.