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, that 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 advisors 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 postponing an attack was a message sent from the Iranians through the Russians stating that they were prepared to use chemical weapons in attacking 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 as of late.
But whatever Mr. 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 that their back is against the wall—they have 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 that most of the Gulf states, who 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, Muammar Gaddafi, 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 that his hesitation may have postponed bringing us to the brink.
For its part, Israel, like a loyal ally, has publically said they are 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.