CRS – Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response. Carla E. Humud, Coordinator Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs; Christopher M. Blanchard, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs; Mary Beth D. Nikitin, Specialist in Nonproliferation April 7, 2017.
“A deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria on April 4, 2017, and a U.S. military strike in response on April 6 have returned the conflict—now in its seventh year—to the forefront of international attention. In response to the April 4 attack, some Members of Congress called for the United States to conduct a punitive military operation. These Members and some others since have praised President Trump’s decision to launch a limited strike, with some calling on the president to consult with Congress about Syria strategy. Other Members have questioned the president’s authority to launch the strike in the absence of specific prior authorization from Congress. In the past, some in Congress have expressed concern about the international and domestic authorizations for such strikes, their potential unintended consequences, and the possibility of undesirable or unavoidable escalation. Since taking office in January 2017, President Trump has stated his intention to “destroy” the Syria-and Iraq-based insurgent terrorist group known as the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL, ISIS, or the Arabic acronym Da’esh), and the president has ordered actions to “accelerate” U.S. military efforts against the group in both countries. In late March, senior U.S. officials signaled that the United States would prioritize the fight against the Islamic State and said that Syrian President Bashar al Asad’s future would be determined by the Syrian people. Nevertheless, in the wake of the April 4 attack, President Trump and senior members of his Administration have spoken more critically of Asad’s leadership, and it remains to be seen whether the United States will more directly seek to compel Asad’s departure from power while pursuing the ongoing campaign against the Islamic State.”