President Donald Trump is under enormous pressure to respond militarily to the latest provocation by the Assad regime, but he would do so against all of his instincts and earlier pronouncements to end US military involvement in the Syrian war.
Just days before the chemical attacks in Douma, Trump announced he wanted US troops out of Syria within months, and that the fight against the Islamic State was largely completed.
Some claim that Trump’s public announcement of US withdrawal in Syria emboldened Assad to conduct these attacks. But the fact is that there have been at least eight alleged chemical attacks by the Assad regime since Trump took office.
Assad has continually tested the boundaries of what the international community and his allies are willing to accept, and has gotten away with it.
Either way, the chemical attacks in Douma changed the calculus for Trump. Although he adamantly wants US military involvement to end, Trump is now not only forced to respond but also to respond in a more robust manner than the single-strike last year against an empty airfield.