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

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 32,844,146 — Total deaths: 994,208 — Total recoveries: 22,715,726Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 7,078,798 — Total deaths: 204,497 — Total recoveries: 2,750,459 — Total tests: 100,492,536Map.
  3. States: New York daily cases top 1,000 for first time since June — U.S. reports over 55,000 new coronavirus cases.
  4. Health: The long-term pain of the mental health pandemicFewer than 10% of Americans have coronavirus antibodies.
  5. Business: Millions start new businesses in time of coronavirus.
  6. Education: Summer college enrollment offers a glimpse of COVID-19's effect.

Graham hopes his panel will approve Amy Coney Barrett by late October

Sen. Lindsey Graham during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sept. 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News Saturday he expects confirmation hearings on Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court to start Oct. 12 and for his panel to approve her by Oct. 26.

Why it matters: That would mean the final confirmation vote could take place on the Senate floor before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Texas city declares disaster after brain-eating amoeba found in water supply

Characteristics associated with a case of amebic meningoencephalitis due to Naegleria fowleri parasites. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Texas authorities have issued a warning amid concerns that the water supply in the southeast of the state may contain the brain-eating amoeba naegleria fowleri following the death of a 6-year-old boy.

Details: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued a "do not use" water alert Friday for eight cities, along with the Clemens and Wayne Scott Texas Department of Criminal Justice corrections centers and the Dow Chemical plant in Freeport. This was later lifted for all places except for Lake Jackson, which issued a disaster declaration Saturday.