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Israel thinking about Iran as U.S. contemplates Syria strike

As President Barack Obama pours on the pressure for a US strike in Syria, the overarching concern in Israel is not the potential for retaliation if the US goes ahead; it’s whether the US can regain some of the credibility it has lost over the past decade in the Middle East due to its controversial war in Iraq and somewhat muddled policy during the Arab uprisings.

Restoring that credibility is seen as a crucial deterrent to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“I think if there is Israeli pressure for the Americans to do something, it’s on the Iranian issue,” says Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. “The only way for America to regain its credibility in the Middle East is to act against Iran. Because even a late strike on Syria would look very tepid and forced upon Obama by circumstances.”

President Obama began pressing for a US strike on Syria after a series of reports and videos claimed that Syria’s Assad regime had launched a chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus Aug. 21, allegedly killing nearly 1,500 people. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied his involvement, blaming rebel groups instead. The US Congress, which reconvenes today, is expected to vote soon on whether to authorize Mr. Obama to proceed with a strike.

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