Escalations in the Middle East Continue

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Are we in a game of who blinks first with Iran?

PRAY FIRST for our nation’s leaders who determine foreign policies and for those who are actively making decisions about the way the United States responds to ongoing actions in the Middle East.

Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word! – Psalm 119:169

How did we get here?

Recent escalations in the Middle East have brought to the forefront the question of whether the United States might be getting closer to war. In late January, a reportedly Iran-backed militant group operating in Syria and Iraq attacked a Syrian outpost that held U.S. troops.

American armed forces and intelligence personnel have long been stationed worldwide. They are usually there for intelligence gathering and sharing or to provide advice or training. The U.S. troops in the attacked outpost were in an advise-and-assist supporting role. While locations with U.S. troops have been attacked in the past, this outpost attack was the first deadly military action taken against U.S. service members when three were killed.

In response, the United States launched a series of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against targets that were linked to Iran and groups supported by them, who are believed to be responsible for the attack. More than 85 sites were hit, including drone, ammunition, missile, and rocket storage facilities, with the intent to deter future attacks and protect U.S. interests and personnel in the region. Iraqi and Syrian governments have criticized some of this action, and Iran and its allies have vowed to retaliate.

Foreign Policy.

In general, the primary objective of foreign policies is to protect the security of a country’s citizens and its allies and partners. This allows economies to function, maintains human rights, and hopefully prevents any crises that might threaten the peace and stability of the world. A country can use various tools to achieve these objectives, such as diplomacy, development, defense, trade, sanctions, intelligence, and multilateralism.

The difficulty comes when there are competing interpretations of how and when actions should be taken. History has the luxury of giving a broader perspective on whether decisions might have been right or wrong, but leaders have to make their best judgment without knowing what the future holds when choosing what actions to take next.

Brink of War?

Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in the Middle East and said, “I think it’s essential to note that this is an incredibly volatile time in the Middle East. I would argue that we’ve not seen a situation as dangerous as the one we’re facing now across the region since at least 1973 and arguably even before.“

The U.S. blames Iran for the latest attack that killed U.S. troops because Iran has supplied many militias with weapons and supplies. However, Iran likely does not have command or control over the actions of these militias. Part of the U.S. strategy is to avoid any attack directly on Iran and primarily target the militias in Iran. Time will tell if Iran decides to use the U.S. response as an excuse to further escalate things into a total war with the United States.

Whatever actions the United States or its adversaries take next, there will always be questions over the short and long-term benefits and detriments.

HOW THEN SHOULD WE PRAY:

— Pray for U.S. military commanders and strategists to be discerning as they consider the ramifications of America’s response and advise the president. Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22). Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war (Proverbs 20:18).

— Pray for members of Congress, as that body has the authority to declare war. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers (Proverbs 24:6, NLT).

CONSIDER THESE ITEMS FOR PRAYER:

  • Pray for the president and Pentagon officials as they choose the U.S. response to Iran-supported militias.
  • Pray for senators and representatives as they evaluate the appropriate measures to take regarding war powers.
  • Pray for the protection and safekeeping of America’s military personnel deployed around the globe, particularly in the Middle East.

Sources: NBC News, New York Magazine, AP News, U.S. Department of Defense

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