Sarah Sanders tweet raises questions

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a photo she said was of President Trump in the Situation Room as he was briefed on Syria. Some pointed out that the photo appears to include Vice President Mike Pence, who was not in the US at the time of the strike on Syria.

Posted: Apr 17, 2018 10:57 AM
Updated: Apr 17, 2018 10:57 AM

It was over in 70 minutes, and changed nothing, but perhaps also everything.

Where is Syria's war now, after Friday's US, UK and French airstrikes, launched in response to a suspected chemical attack on the town of Douma?

Syria's war continues unabated, on the same course.

US President Donald Trump was clear, even as the missiles were launching, that this strike was purely about chemical weapons. Trump did not seek to change the course of the war (neither did his predecessor, really), and he has not. However ghastly and inhumane the current phase of the war, it is all about consolidation -- by the regime, and by Syrian-Kurdish and Turkish-backed rebels -- over various parts of the country.

Unless Syrian President Bashar al-Assad chooses to try and take more territory, the spate of killing could slow in the months ahead. Any serious intervention by the US and its allies now would only serve to intensify the war, and potentially prolong the rebellion for years. That may deliver a sense of justice to those for whom the rebels fight, but it would leave many more dead and displaced. The West doesn't want to own the war, so -- airstrikes notwithstanding -- it may prefer to stay out of it for now.

Moscow and Tehran are probably a little irritated at Damascus

Given all of that, the last week has shone an enormous spotlight on the brutality of the Assad regime and the role Russia and Iran have played in that -- just when they were winning in Ghouta and the international community did not show any signs of responding. Months of unbearable slaughter from conventional weapons had played out on social media and some cable TV, resulting in no Western intervention at all.

But the images from the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, just after the international solidarity shown with Britain over the Skripal case, catapulted the three Western powers into action. Strip away the moral imperatives here: On a purely tactical level, the use of chemical weapons to kill and force out hundreds of holdout civilians in Douma seems to have made no sense. As for Russia, which has been the international guarantor of Syria's commitment to destroy its chemical weapons, it simply didn't need the headache of the past week.

The new 'red line' on chemical weapons is fuzzy

This may be intentional. The US, UK and France have all claimed that chemical weapons were used in Douma and that Assad's regime was to blame. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, appeared to speak for all of them at the Security Council when she said all three had "analyzed" the evidence -- but did not say what they had analyzed.

Had they studied the footage of victims that showed symptoms consistent, some say, with nerve agents? Or did they have samples from the field? French President Emmanuel Macron said that "at least" chlorine was used, and US officials have briefed they think sarin was in the chemical mix. But the methodology around the testing of samples is unclear.

So, did the West strike because of the horror of the attack, or because the use of chlorine with such horrifying effects is now a new red line? Or did the US and its allies privately have proof of the use of sarin, the substance determined to have been involved in attacks in 2013 and 2017, to great international outcry? The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, whose inspectors have traveled to Douma, may get a clearer picture.

But for now, the West's new red line may possibly cover the use of chlorine, used often in the war, and sometimes allegedly by the regime's enemies, like ISIS. This puts the regime on notice on the use of all gas, but potentially opens up scope for greater complications down the line.

The US showed militarily that it can do what it likes in Syria

Strip away the bravado and the claims that 70 per cent of incoming missiles were destroyed: Even after a week's notice, the US still took out exactly what it said it wanted to, when it wanted to. The Russians were warned diplomatically they were not the target before. And on the night they were told via deconfliction channels not to get in the way.

But in short, the Russians were either unable to (or chose not to) get in the way. For all the talk of a resurgent Russian military, both in this and in the recent clash with US forces in February when dozens of Russian mercenaries advanced on a US position and were swiftly killed, the US has twice recently dominated on this battlefield.

That sends an important message to Moscow, who have for years discounted the US as a paper tiger. But it also risks Russia at some point trying to reassert itself, and that could escalate.

Assad is free to continue massacring who he sees fit with conventional weapons.

But the previously accepted wisdom that no horror ever in Syria would be enough to spur Western intervention has been challenged. April 2017's missile attack could have been dismissed as an outlier, in which a new US President was spurred on, reportedly by his daughter's pleas, and disgust at images of dead children.

Now we have concerted and sustained action from three Western powers who have before been content to let Syria unfold with mere rhetorical fury and some aid money as their foil. At the very least, a message has been sent that chemical weapons are not the new norm, and in a war (and sometimes it seems a world) of endless and bottomless horror, many would say that's a red line worth drawing.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 75862

Reported Deaths: 3069
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion16088730
Lake7688278
Elkhart492685
Allen4002163
St. Joseph357883
Hamilton2829104
Vanderburgh202213
Hendricks1927108
Cass18029
Johnson1789119
Porter135539
Clark128749
Tippecanoe123811
Madison100665
LaPorte93130
Howard91365
Kosciusko86812
Bartholomew81747
Floyd80948
Marshall79323
Monroe76631
Delaware74552
Dubois70812
Vigo69911
Noble68829
Boone68746
Hancock68339
Jackson5965
Warrick58830
Shelby56527
LaGrange56310
Grant52930
Dearborn51228
Morgan49334
Clinton4444
Henry40620
Wayne38510
White37611
Montgomery35921
Lawrence35227
Harrison34823
Decatur34132
Putnam3128
Daviess27720
Miami2772
Scott27210
Jasper2552
Greene25434
Franklin24615
DeKalb2384
Gibson2314
Jennings22712
Steuben2133
Ripley2138
Carroll1962
Fayette1947
Perry18713
Posey1790
Starke1787
Wells1742
Orange17424
Fulton1722
Wabash1703
Jefferson1672
Knox1610
Whitley1556
Tipton14312
Washington1421
Sullivan1381
Spencer1373
Clay1245
Huntington1243
Randolph1244
Newton12010
Adams1092
Owen991
Jay920
Rush854
Pulaski811
Fountain742
Brown741
Blackford652
Ohio656
Benton640
Pike590
Vermillion580
Switzerland530
Parke511
Martin480
Crawford450
Union410
Warren241
Unassigned0206

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 102826

Reported Deaths: 3708
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin18697529
Cuyahoga13734505
Hamilton9766257
Lucas5448326
Montgomery443896
Summit3614223
Butler297663
Marion293545
Mahoning2595255
Pickaway239142
Stark1884140
Warren182139
Lorain181377
Columbiana167160
Trumbull1549108
Fairfield141632
Delaware134419
Licking131951
Clark117815
Lake113141
Wood106858
Clermont95311
Medina94535
Miami85839
Tuscarawas79314
Portage77163
Allen76946
Greene71812
Mercer63113
Belmont62326
Richland61412
Erie59728
Ashtabula57646
Geauga55944
Wayne54558
Ross4944
Darke40629
Huron4045
Madison40110
Ottawa39626
Sandusky39017
Hancock3893
Athens3602
Holmes3286
Lawrence3000
Auglaize2636
Union2601
Muskingum2431
Scioto2421
Jefferson2373
Seneca2283
Knox2127
Putnam21117
Shelby2104
Washington20922
Preble2072
Coshocton1967
Champaign1812
Morrow1762
Crawford1755
Hardin17012
Clinton1696
Highland1661
Logan1602
Ashland1543
Fulton1531
Wyandot1509
Defiance1504
Brown1462
Perry1403
Williams1363
Henry1222
Fayette1210
Guernsey1197
Hocking1189
Carroll1135
Monroe9418
Pike790
Jackson760
Van Wert732
Paulding700
Gallia701
Adams612
Meigs540
Vinton322
Morgan300
Harrison261
Noble160
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 84°
Angola
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 81°
Huntington
Few Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 82°
Decatur
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 81°
Van Wert
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 81°
Mostly Sunny Thursday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events