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PRAGUE — Iran’s influence in the Middle East is being strengthened not only because of the opportunities created by the frustration of U.S. power in Iraq, but because of the diplomatic protection it has been receiving from China, and most importantly, from Russia. With President Vladimir Putin now on a Middle East tour to flex Russia’s diplomatic muscles in the region, now is a good moment to assess his country’s influence in the region.

Russia, by wielding the threat of its Security Council veto, spent much of the past two years whittling away the proposed list of sanctions that might be slapped on Iran for its refusal to honor its commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency over its nuclear program. As a result, the sanctions that have been imposed by the U.N. Security Council are so tepid that they are unlikely to be effective.

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