The so-called "fizzling" of the talks in Geneva between the United States and Iran last week was not unexpected by any expert estimation. Which makes one wonder why the US, the other four permanent members of the UN

They cannot afford to shut down the flow of oil.

Security Council (Britain, China, France and Russia), and Germany were willing to sit down with the Persian state in the first place.

According to the AP, Iran "stonewalled" the six world powers "on their call to freeze uranium enrichment. In response, the six gave Iran two weeks to respond to their demand, setting the stage for a new round of UN sanctions."

Could anyone possibly believe that Iran's agreeing to meet with the six nations followed by its rejection of their demand to halt its nuclear development was anything other than a deceptive buying-of-time in its race to join the nuclear club before Israel (with or without US support) launches airstrikes against its nuclear facilities in the narrowing window of opportunity before the as-yet unknown political environment following US elections in November?

This is not rocket science (pardon the pun), but the Iranians are afraid of being attacked by Israel, and - though they'll never express it publicly - they are deathly afraid of war with the US. This doesn't mean Iran is not dangerous or irrational. It is both.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has frequently threatened to wipe Israel off the map. He recently told the Japanese prime minister that "influential nations should get ready for a world minus the US." He has threatened to shut off the flow of Persian Gulf oil at the Strait of Hormuz. And earlier this month, someone gave the order to test-launch a handful of Shahab missiles (there was, however, a lighter side for the rest of us when Iran photo-shopped a launched missile into a photograph of one that actually failed to leave the pad).

Threats and missile-rattling aside, Ahmadinejad and his bosses - the mullahs who hate us just as much as he does - know that time is not on their side. They know that, despite their threats, they cannot afford to shut down the flow of oil, the absolute lifeblood of their economy. They also know that big-consumers of Iranian oil like China cannot afford to let Iran stop the flow. Iran also knows that as soon as it has acquired a nuclear weapon, it will have a newfound leverage, which will completely change regional dynamics. Iran simply needs more time, and it wants the bomb.

As the Geneva talks were barely underway, Keyvan Imani, the Iranian ambassador to Switzerland, reportedly said, "Any kind of suspension or freeze [of uranium enrichment] is out of the question," and, "Suspension - there is no chance for that."

Yet, chief Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili says, "Iran is calling on the Western powers to resume the dialogue."

Why? And why the two different Iranian approaches - a refusal to compromise, yet a desire to continue talking? It's all part of the grand deception. It is, as I previously said, a buying of time; and the purchase is accomplished through a Shia Islamic principle, al-taqiyya ("concealing or disguising one's beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions and/or strategies at a time of eminent danger, whether now or later in time, to save oneself from physical and/or mental injury."): Basically, Islam's justification for lying and deceiving one's enemies.

The concept gives Shia Islamists an edge over Westerners.

"Islamic spokesmen commonly use taqiyya as a form of 'outwitting'. The matter under discussion is not to be debated or discussed; rather the opponent is to 'outwitted' through taqiyya, by diversion of the subject and obfuscation...." writes Warner MacKenzie in Islam Watch.

It is a difficult concept for Westerners - primarily Jews and Christians, who view lying as a sin and who believe a man is only as good as his word - to get their heads around. Consequently, the concept gives Shia Islamists an edge over Westerners, who may be unconsciously more inclined to put at least a minimum level of trust into a promise, a warm smile and a handshake.

Americans, who have an ideological aversion to war (despite the courage we have to defend ourselves and others), are always looking for the peaceful way out, even when we have the upper-hand militarily. Hence, the talks. But we must also realize that al-taqiyya is still alive and well. And it reared its head in an obvious way in Geneva.