Donald Trump is sitting on the horns of a dilemma. Just a week ago, he had emphatically stated that the US would leave Syria. He made it clear that he did not want to get embroiled in another long drawn out conflict. Then something happened that has made the western powers look up. A chemical weapons attack has taken place in Ghouta, a city held by fighters opposed to Assad. The West and the US have rushed to blame Assad and Trump referred to him as an "animal." Trump also promised some form of punishment, which could be another missile attack.

The last missile attack, about a year back, achieved nothing, and Assad is far stronger now than at that time. In other words, the missile attack did not alter the trajectory of the war. But time has changed and the stakes are higher now. The Washinton Post has written that another attack while achieving nothing could lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia and maybe another Cuba crisis like in 1962.

Confrontation with Russia

Nikita Khrushchev and John Kennedy averted a showdown and both backed off during the Cuban missile crisis. The Russians withdrew the missiles and Kennedy guaranteed never to destabilize the Castro regime. There was room for maneuver at that time, but in Syria, there may be no room for maneuver.

You can't have a chief executive stating that he wants to leave Syria and them mount a missile attack. Like last time, this missile attack will achieve nothing as Assad will not be dislodged. The only way the missile attack can have meaning is if US troops intervene, but the time for that is long past. The Russians have their footprints all over Syria and Assad is looking stronger than ever.

He has the support of Iran as well.

Trump will have to do his homework, as the Russians are already incensed by Western sanctions on the spy poisoning episode and they may not sit back and not respond. The Washinton Post editorial board, in a front-page article, has written that a few cruise missiles from Trump won't stop the Syrian war.

Trump must be aware that any attack on Syria presents a real danger of a possibility of conflict with Russia. There are reports the Russians have already started jamming US drones operating over Syria.

Last word

Trump will have to think deep and hard. He must realize that the escalation of few missiles could lead to a worse scenario. That is the reason he has not responded as yet. Perhaps he and the generals are working out the best solution. But whatever decision he takes is not going to throw Assad and Russia out of Syria. Trump might as well accept that fact. A missile attack could very well end in disaster.