Like many Iranians, Maryam Sofi says the West and Iran are locked in a dangerous game. "I don't think we can know just yet if war will break out, but I am concerned for my family and my country," says university teacher Sofi, 42, a mother of two.
"I cannot sleep at night, thinking about destruction and bloodshed if Israel and America attack Iran."
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran's nuclear facilities if diplomacy fails to resolve a dispute over a program they suspect is aimed at developing atomic weapons.
In Washington on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States was considering all options on Iran and would work with allies to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
"No options off the table means I'm considering all options," he said.
Sanctions and diplomatic pressure still appear to be Washington's preferred course of action. But Israel has been sending mixed signals, unnerving Iranians.
Shouting above the clanking hammers of coppersmiths in Tehran's busy bazaar, nut seller Ali encouraged his customers to hoard his wares: "Buy and store! War is looming!"
Tensions with the West rose after hardline students stormed two British diplomatic compounds in Tehran last week in protest against new sanctions imposed after the U.N. nuclear agency suggested that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons.
Britain closed its embassy and France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands recalled their envoys.
The diplomatic exodus, swollen by some foreign businessmen based in Tehran, has heightened nervousness in the capital to a level not felt since the outbreak of war with Iraq in the 1980s, or the turmoil that preceded the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.
"Foreigners are leaving Iran ... Isn't it obvious that they want to attack Iran?," said a teacher named Mina.
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