Tehran could attempt to use the Americans as bargaining chips in its bid to build nuclear weapons.
The two cases in close succession raise questions of whether the two countries will try to use the Americans as pawns in their standoffs with the international community over their nuclear programs.
Additionally, in the case of Iran, the detention of three Americans risks ratcheting up tensions by rekindling memories of the hostages taken at the US embassy in Tehran during the Iranian revolution 30 years ago.
Indeed, Iranian officials can be expected to weigh what image they want to convey both at home and abroad as they ponder how to deal with the three Americans, experts on Iran say. Do they want to project an image of a strong regime firmly in control of its borders or that of a hostage-taker once again?
"On the one hand we can expect the Iranians will want to use this incident to say "Iran is as strong as ever, we are in control of our borders, and no one should try to mess with us," says Alex Vatanka, an Iran analyst with Jane's Information Group in Alexandria, Va. "That will play well with hardliners domestically, but it will also send a message to the international community not to imagine that Iran is weakened after 50 days of internal unrest over the June elections."
But on the other hand, Mr. Vatanka says the Iranians will also be mindful of the echoes of 1979. "For 30 years, they have been trying to move away from this image of hostage-takers, and if this drags on, that's how the anti-Iran elements in the US are likely to see this."