**Photo Update**

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on July 19, 2012, shows Syrian General Fahd al-Freij (L) being sworn-in by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus

FEARING THAT SANCTIONS would lead to military intervention, at least that was the excuse, which Mark Lyall Grant, the U.K. ambassador, said were arguments that were “irrational,” Russia, along with China, vetoed sanctions against the Syrian government today.

From the Wall Street Journal:

It was the third time Russia and China have vetoed Security Council resolutions that aimed to pressure the government to leave power. This last failure at diplomacy once again highlighted the growing realization that Syria’s fate would be decided by bloody clashes in the streets of the capital, and not the halls of the U.N.

The British-drafted resolution, co-sponsored by the U.S., France and Germany, would have given the government 10 days to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from populated areas or face sanctions targeted at the regime’s elite. Though not specified in the resolution, the threatened sanctions would have included asset freezes and international travel restrictions on senior Syrian officials.

People handicapping the presidential horse race are ignoring the impact of instability in the Middle East and what it could mean to the election, which is definitely in play today.

As I wrote yesterday, experts don’t think Pres. Bashar al-Assad will just fold and walk away, with the mortal threat to his government unleashed on Wednesday serious and could very well lead to mass bloodshed. He’s not been seen or heard from since, with Since this column was posted, the above photo became available via Al Jazeera; all experts cautioning there’s little concrete information coming out of Syria about what’s happening inside the Syrian government, so no one knows anything for sure.

When you add the murder of Israelis in Bulgaria to the mix, with P.M. Netanyahu quickly assessing it was Iran’s doing, the dangers in the Middle East for a regional conflict become a frightening prospect. If Israel would hit Hezbollah in Lebanon, or Iran itself, something that most experts I trust find unlikely, the possibility for a regional explosion escalates exponentially.

In a presidential year, national security is something that typically rebounds to the incumbent’s advantage, if he’s been seen as a strong and capable commander in chief. Both of these adjectives describe Pres. Obama, if using conventional analysis, because he has been a tougher player on the international scene than even George W. Bush. The other fact is that Mitt Romney has a very thin grasp of foreign policy and it shows when he talks about it; delivering neoconservative talking points, ala George W. Bush but without his good ‘ole boy toughness that seduces the American voter, in a way that is scripted, not based on a fundamental understanding of national security nuances.