Expert Voices

As Trump weighs response to chemical attacks, U.S. future in Syria still unclear

A medical worker at Damascus Countryside Specialised Hospital holds a placard condemning a suspected chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town in April 2017
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.