If you listened to the interviews from the very beginning, the Sony Pictures CEO's line has basically always been "Guys, I can't _officially_ say that we're still releasing it until we negotiate more, but I swear to god it's still going to happen unless the theaters are even dumber than I thought". Dude sounded really pissed and barely restrained by his PR department; I'm convinced that it was 100% playing hardball with distributors and 0% international politics.
Honestly I'm amazed at the reporting on this. THEATERS caved. Sony said "uh, we're not going to open the show in like two theaters nationwide", theaters took about a week to snap out of "oh god horror the turrists" mode...but it seemed pretty obvious from the beginning that that was going to be the timeline here.