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Why UN gridlock on Syria could encourage Israel to attack Iran

If the UN Security Council can't take action against Syria, then Israel might well conclude that the council will be impotent to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. 

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Lavrov earlier qualified as “hysteria” the Western response to Russia’s veto – the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, called it “disgusting.” But the deep divide among world powers portends a rough period for global diplomacy that won’t go unnoticed by other countries caught in the Middle East’s tumult, including Israel.

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“If the conclusion becomes unassailable that the US and Russia aren’t just going through a period of disagreement but have embarked on some deeper divide, it puts into question everything about the ‘reset' ” – President Obama’s revaluation of US-Russia relations, says Michael Oppenheimer, a professor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs. “It also can’t help but comfort the Syrians and the Iranians.”

The problem, Professor Oppenheimer says, is that a sense among the Iranians that Russia will shield them as it did the Syrian regime “only makes a military confrontation more likely.”

“The more confidence the Iranians feel as a consequence of the Syria vote, the less likely they are to take the lessons they should be taking,” he says.

Mr. Obama continues to insist that diplomacy remains the best way to persuade Iran to change the course of its nuclear program. On Monday, he signed new measures aimed at causing the regime such pain that it is forced to accept a resumption of serious negotiations.

But some UN diplomats say they are worried that talks that appeared likely in the coming weeks may have been put off by the Syria discord.

In that climate, not only are talks between Iran and world powers more problematic, but stresses in the broader Middle East could increase, as well.

“The chances of spillover [of Syria’s conflict] are considerably higher,” he says. “Any sign of stepped-up assistance by the Russians to Syria could prompt Turkey or maybe Saudi Arabia to act on behalf of the rebels, and then the regional implications would multiply in all directions, and that includes Israel.”         

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