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A medical worker in Damascus condemning the chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 6, 2017, that prompted President Trump to order a military strike. Photo: Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP via Getty Images

When the Assad regime deployed sarin gas against civilians in Khan Shaykhun last April, President Trump took only sixty hours to order missile strikes on a Syrian airfield. Since then, though, the U.S. has largely acquiesced to Assad's routine use of both conventional and chlorine-gas weapons on civilians. That cumulative carnage is far greater than this weekend’s chemical attack in Douma.

Yes, but: A number of factors — including horrific images of victims, which reportedly spurred Trump's decision last April, Russia's warning against U.S. intervention and, ironically, Trump’s recent call to withdraw — may have bolstered rather than diminished the odds of a forceful response. Trump's red-line tweets about Assad paying a big price and his mentioning Putin by name seem to presage military retaliation.

Before making a decision, the Trump administration is working to create an evidentiary standard based on the kinds of chemicals used and their source. In the meantime, the UN Security Council convened on Monday, though Russia holds veto power over its resolutions.

As the region responds to Israel's Sunday night strikes near Homs, which reportedly killed four Iranians, the likelihood and scope of U.S. action in Douma remain of greatest interest. That the city is only 12 miles from Damascus adds a further level of complexity to the U.S. calculus.

The big picture: Whatever the response, the question of U.S. involvement in Syria — beyond hammering the remnants of ISIS and supporting Syrian Kurds — will remain unresolved. As talk of withdrawal temporarily abates, it's a fair assumption that the U.S. isn't backing down or out.

Aaron David Miller is vice president for new initiatives and director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center.

Go deeper

Americans are super-sizing their holiday travel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are rushing back into holiday travel, and many are taking even longer trips now than they did before the pandemic began.

The big picture: After skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings last year, many people are eager to maximize this year's celebrations with friends and family. And flexible remote working arrangements make that easier than ever.

Updated 16 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."