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U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley confers with members of the U.S. delegation at the start of UNSC meeting regarding the situation in Syria on April 10, 2018. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Although Assad has all but won the civil war in Syria, he has yet to win the peace: As last weekend's chemical attacks illustrate, the country remains a humanitarian disaster.

In deciding how to retaliate, the U.S. must recognize that a symbolic response will be hollow if not accompanied by a more robust strategy. Even at this late stage, there is still an obligation for the international community to intervene purposefully.

The bottom line: Assad must be contained. Russia has given indispensable support to his regime against a largely unsupported opposition and extremist militias with limited armament. But a joint U.S.–NATO intervention would change the equation, and having Putin on his side won't help him if the action is swift and thorough.

It is possible to strip Assad of his deadliest weapon by far, his air force. The biggest obstacle is Putin's S-400 anti-air system, which can be neutralized with electronic jamming and cruise missiles.

However, the best option, perhaps in conjunction with a strategic strike, is to deploy more U.S. troops in Syria, east of the Euphrates river. The troop presence would largely be a deterrent to further advances, and would hinge on an acceptable political transition in which the secular opposition has an equal stake.

That deployment should be accompanied by a policy statement from President Trump promising that any expansion of the Assad regime will be confronted with force. The U.S. objective would not be to force regime change but to foster an arrangement acceptable to all Syrian parties.

The big picture: If Assad's control is contained, he will have a weaker hand at any negotiation table, and the U.S. will have secured a credible voice in shaping post-war Syria.

Nabeel Khoury is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Go deeper

16 mins ago - World

Brazil senators vote to recommend criminal charges for Bolsonaro

Brazilian senators vote on probe into President Bolsonaro's handling of pandemic. Photo: Gustavo Minas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate committee Tuesday voted to approve a report recommending President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with a raft of criminal indictments including crimes against humanity over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, per AP.

Why it matters: Bolsonaro has become the face of a right-wing approach to the pandemic that includes repudiating vaccines and masks and resisting lockdowns and other mitigation measures. The Senate report holds him personally responsible for half of the country's 600,000 deaths.

Former Georgetown tennis coach pleads guilty to accepting admissions bribes

Gordon Ernst (left) former head tennis coach at Georgetown, outside a courthouse in Boston in 2019. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A former Georgetown University head tennis coach has pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery charges related to facilitating the admission of prospective applicants.

Why it matters: Gordon Ernst solicited and accepted bribes from William Singer, ringleader of the cheating scheme uncovered by Operation Varsity Blues, and families in exchange for helping prospective applicants get into Georgetown as student athletes, according to the Justice Department.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.