President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama meets with members of Congress to discuss Syria in the Cabinet Room of the White House Tuesday. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The buzz in the Middle East media is that the real reason President Obama changed his mind about striking Syria last week was not, in fact, because he is indecisive.

Nor was it that the concept of war goes against his grain.

Nor that there’s a major division between his personal advisers and government officials.

Nor that the Arab League voted against America striking Syria and wanted the United Nations to intervene.

Nor even that the British House of Commons pulled the rug out from under him by voting against a British attack on Syria—essentially slapping Obama’s primary supporter, Prime Minister Cameron, on the face.

Rather, it’s believed that the main reason for his postponing an attack was a message sent from the Iranians through the Russians stating they were prepared to use chemical weapons to attack Israel. Whether Iran was planning to do that directly or indirectly through its proxies (mainly Hezbollah), it is not clear. Certainly Hezbollah has been beating the war drums of late.

But whatever Obama’s reasons may be, many people are breathing a sigh of relief that what could have become World War III has been delayed for the time being. For the first time in many decades, the eastern Mediterranean Sea is crowded with American and Russian warships. And that is not a comforting sign to those in the region.

Most of the Western world is underestimating the fact that the Shiite sect of Islam, championed by Iran, feels its back is against the wall—that it has to do something, even if it’s an irrational something.

To them, the loss of Syria could start a domino effect, leading then to a loss of Iraq and consequently the loss of the Shiite’s dream of hegemony in the Muslim world. That is something most of the Gulf states, which are predominantly Sunni, would welcome with open arms.

Furthermore, it’s vitally important to remember that Syria is no Libya. There, the Sunni population was merely envious that their fellow Sunni despot, Moammar Gadhafi, was hogging billions of petro dollars. They wanted to get their hands on it, or at least have a say in spending it.

So while some have criticized President Obama for backtracking and wanting Congress to share in the blame if things go south, we should be thankful his hesitation may have postponed bringing us to the brink.

For its part, Israel, like a loyal ally, has publicly said it is ready for whatever may come. But privately, many Israelis are also breathing a sigh of relief. But for how long? Next week will probably tell.

Meanwhile, the Syrian refugees keep pouring into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

I am grateful our ministry partners in Lebanon and Jordan are working tirelessly to make the miserable lives of many of those refuges a little bit tolerable. I pray they will be sustained until the day sanity and common sense returns to the region.

But sanity is not prevailing today. Americans who are treating this crisis with a ho-hum approach—focusing their attention instead on Miley Cyrus—need to understand we could be facing a catastrophic event.

For believers, it is time to pray that God will give wisdom to those making global-impact decisions.

Michael Youssef, Ph.D., is the founder and president of Leading the Way With Dr. Michael Youssef, a worldwide ministry that leads the way for people living in spiritual darkness to discover the light of Christ through the creative use of media and on-the-ground ministry teams. Youssef was born in Egypt.

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