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Israel hopes at least one positive outcome will emerge from North Korea's nuclear test Monday: an increase in pressure to halt Iran.
That possibility will be put to the test next week, when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert travels to Moscow and meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Israeli officials will be pushing for a sobering up on the part of Russia, which has been equivocating on whether to back sanctions against the Islamic republic.
The price of aggression
"They are not very happy" about the North Korean test, said one Foreign Ministry source. "We hope that now something will happen [with] Iran."
"All the necessary time and delays" have already been given to Iran when it comes to meeting the demands of the international community, which has been trying to halt Iran's nuclear program, the source said. Israel anticipates that Russia, like the US and EU, could be more impatient now that North Korea has already shown a willingness to buck international pressure, he added.
The widespread concern sparked by the North Korean test might motivate the world body to take a tougher stand on Iran, Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman said Tuesday.
"This test and the international climate of opinion maybe gives us some hope that also on the Iranian issue we shall see more determined activity by the Security Council," he said. "The world to a large extent understands what is happening today with North Korea and its nuclear activity; what Iran is about to do could be much worse, much more frightening and much more dangerous."
The US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany last week agreed to pursue possible sanctions against Iran, but they stopped short of demanding punitive measures by the UN Security Council, which has so far been reluctant to act.
According to Ephraim Kam, deputy head of the Institute of National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, Russia is the significant power when it comes to Security Council sanctions.
"The key for imposing sanctions is Russia," he said. "If the Russians would agree, there would be sanctions. If they won't agree, there won't be sanctions."
Kam said the timing of Olmert's trip is fortuitous.
"The meeting comes at a good time because governments are concerned about the Korean case," he said. "It might be a good argument to tell Russia that if you're not going to join the efforts to stop Iran before it gets the bomb, it's going to be much more difficult to dismantle a bomb [later]. Look at North Korea. It's going to be much more difficult to stop them."
Kam said there had been a change in Russia's attitude toward Iran over the past year, with expressions of criticism and demands to stop uranium enrichment emerging, as it has begun to understand "that Iran really is trying to acquire a nuclear bomb."
Russia's opposition could increase with North Korea's actions, Kam said, adding: "Since the Russians deplore the North Korean behavior, like almost everybody, I think the North Korean case brought about some kind of agreement that something should be done."
But Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, argued that, contrary to Russia's own interests of stability and dominance in the region, Putin has been willing to tolerate the thought of a nuclear Iran and North Korea because of a desire to "savor the loss of the Americans."
Though the occasion of the Israeli visit is to mark the 15th anniversary of the reestablishment of ties between the two countries, Inbar said Russia has been reverting to many of its old Soviet ways.
"They still have an imperialist outlook on Middle East politics," he said. "They want to prevent a Pax Americana in the region."
All of which means, in Inbar's opinion, that "Olmert is wasting his time with his trip to Moscow."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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