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Syrian Army soldiers advancing in an area on the eastern outskirts of Douma, where the chemical attack took place. Photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty

The world is waiting to see whether President Trump takes military action in response to a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians in Syria, now that he's said he'll decide in the next 24 to 48 hours.

“If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out and we’ll know the answers quite soon,” he told reporters before a cabinet meeting. “So we’re looking at that very strongly and very seriously.”

Between the lines: Trump’s next move could be a preview of things to come now that National Security Adviser John Bolton has taken the reins from H.R. McMaster. Bolton has written thousands of words of op-eds, but it’s unclear what course he might advise in this specific situation.

Axios’ Jonathan Swan emails, “While Bolton is an interventionist hawk, he doesn’t favor interventions on humanitarian grounds. He regards his foreign policy views as ‘pro-American’ and says he views intervention entirely through that lens.”

  • Bolton opposed strikes in 2013, when Barack Obama was deciding whether to enforce his “red line” in Syria, but praised the “very precise nature”of Trump’s strikes last year, per the NY Times

Trump's range of options, according to Jennifer Cafarella of the Institute for the Study of War...

  1. Pinprick strikes on the Assad regime, like those he ordered last April after a previous chemical attack. The downside: Those strikes failed to deter Assad.
  2. More damaging strikes targeted at the Assad regime, for example striking "numerous regime airfields and military bases, and warning the Russians in advance," Cafarella says. The downside: "It will not harm Assad's backers and therefore is unlikely to weaken his resolve."
  3. Strikes that would affect all three actors Trump named, hitting targets like joint Russian-Iranian bases or command and control centers. The downside: Russia has said it will retaliate to strikes that endanger Russian troops.

The bottom line: Cafarella says if Trump chooses option number 3, Russia, Iran, and Assad might limit their response to attempting to shoot down the U.S. missiles or aircraft. More dangerous is the possibility of a counter attack, perhaps on a U.S. warship in the Mediterranean. 

The big question: Will Trump shift from his goal of getting out of Syria ASAP to a broader policy of constraining Iran, Russia and Assad?

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Economy & Business

The billionaire balloon

Data: World Inequality Report 2022; Chart: Axios Visuals

The super-rich are getting stupid rich: New data out today shows the share of global wealth held by the richest slice of humanity swelled by almost a full percentage point during the pandemic.

Driving the news: The top 0.01% of individuals now hold about 11% of the world's wealth, compared to just over 10% in 2020, according to the "World Inequality Report 2022," written by Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

Omicron gives a shot to boosters

Expand chart
Data: CDC; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Vaccination rates have ticked higher since the discovery of the Omicron variant, CDC data shows.

By the numbers: The seven-day average for vaccinations in the U.S. reached about 1.8 million on Monday, up from an average of about 1.3 million a month ago.

Scoop: Over 200 papers quietly sue Big Tech

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Newspapers all over the country have been quietly filing antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook for the past year, alleging the two firms monopolized the digital ad market for revenue that would otherwise go to local news. 

Why it matters: What started as a small-town effort to take a stand against Big Tech has turned into a national movement, with over 200 newspapers involved across dozens of states.