Assad had it wrapped up. Assad was looking secure. Hell, rebels were signing peace agreements, other rebels were evacuating Aleppo on buses, and even Trump and Tillerson said Assad's control and victory was a fait accompli.
Then an unverified gas attack with several child victims. Child victims don't work when it's European or American children dying at the hands of terrorists. They only work when the Empire can spend money on military toys to force regime change. Trump sent 59 missiles, not much different from Obama's normal actions, but these were lobbed at an Assad air force base.
Roughly one week was all it took for a policy to change and for a president that had campaigned on non-intervention to talk of intervention without clear details. But what do we know? I've been writing on Syria for years now. Sometimes to spotlight how the Saudis and Qataris want a pipeline, the Middle East map will be remade, the Israelis want Oded Yinon implemented, or that some want to use Syria to get to Iran. Conspiracy theory has become openly stated goals from the likes of Bill Kristol and Jennifer Rubin.
We know the interests all ready for intervention beyond the odd fight against ISIS while our partners support ISIS. We know that ISIS is weakened. We know the CIA and DoD are fighting a proxy war as their separately armed militias have even fought each other. We know now Syria has Russia, Iran and possibly China saying enough, and that further action will cause retaliation (the summer 1914 situation). We know that just a week ago, the US State Department and President Trump both said regime change was not a goal, but are now backing off that. We know Secretary of State Tillerson has a meeting with Russian Minister Lavrov next week.
The dark view is that the natsec community or deep state has nudged President Trump down a path of escalation and full on war in Syria. This comes with grim possibilities in the region as the Russians and Iranians have supersonic missiles that could overload and take out American ships in surrounding waters. The Straits of Hormuz could become a hot point, and what happens to the fragile American psyche if a carrier or destroyer is sunk and is flashed on the television screen 24/7 for a week? Nuke exchange? End of USG as its last shred of legitimacy collapses? The last one is a potential upside.
The lighter view is that this is an example of geopolitical brinkmanship as the Syria war looked to be wrapping up, and the Trump administration wanted something as leverage before the Tillerson-Lavrov meeting in Moscow next week. No 4D chess, more Nixonian mad bomber for this week's meeting.
Unless you're in the White House or have a trustworthy source, no one knows anything. There is the possibility that regime change could be redefined to "Assad lives out retirement in exile and a new coastal minority general hand-picked by the Kremlin that was loyal to Assad will be the new head of state". We could see Syria split as specific interests in the game want. Do not count this out as a coastal Assad led Syria still blocks the Saudi-Qatari pipeline. Assad was within his right to protect his regime from the outside funded and armed insurrection, and he was also the weasel that sheltered Iraqi insurgents that fought US soldiers in Iraq.
America will find out shortly what is in store. There is another set of things we know. We all know the on the ground force with the best intel and knowledge of Syrian fighting that is fighting ISIS is Assad's force. We know with American air support and American restriction of rebel supplying by Turkey/KSA/US State/CIA, Assad could mop them up quickly. We know America should be fighting with Assad not against him.
We also know that the civil war in Syria was part of the CIA/State Arab Spring project. America, the Gulf kingdoms, Turkey. Israel and the EU's culpability in this gruesome multiyear war is a black mark on the rotten history of America's global empire. We know that what America and its wealthy partners should do is find a peaceful resolution to the Syrian conflict, send those Syrian men too scared to fight back home, and pledge billions to rebuilding the Syria they destroyed. Historical sites thousands of years old are not coming back, but running water, working electricity and basic shelter are possible.
Syria has suffered enough. No war in Syria. Send reconstruction funds, not bombs, and leave Syria alone to try to rebuild what they lost.