The airstrikes, which targeted three facilities involved in research or storage of chemical weapons in western Syria, won’t disable him from taking further action — whether chemical or conventional, Lute said.
“I think he’s feeling reasonably good right now,” Lute said of Assad. “Some of his facilities were struck, but it doesn’t really challenge his hold on the country.”
President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the military to strike targets in Syria in conjunction with France and the United Kingdom after a suspected chemical weapons attack reportedly killed dozens of Syrians. According to the Pentagon, those targets included a scientific research center in the capital of Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility near the city of Homs, and a chemical weapons equipment and military outpost also near Homs.
But experts said it’s unclear how long of an impact the strike would have on Assad’s weapon capabilities and whether it would dissuade him, as intended, from using chemical weapons in the future. Syria has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons against its people.
They also said the so-called red line that the Trump administration is drawing, meant as a marker for reprisals, could be problematic.
“People will see [the reasoning for the strike] and say, ‘Does that mean that Bashar al-Assad has the green light to use conventional munitions against defenseless civilians?'” said former Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield, who served in the past three Republican administrations, most recently as the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs under President George W. Bush.
Assad, meanwhile, appeared unruffled Saturday as he strolled into the presidential palace in Damascus, briefcase in hand and mere miles from where some of the missiles struck chemical weapons depots hours earlier, according to a video released on Twitter by the Syrian regime.
While the attack may have destroyed the facilities where Syria combines its chemical agents, the strike likely will only cripple the country’s ability to deploy certain agents, such as sarin gas, experts told NBC News.
Sarin was not the only agent used in the alleged chemical attack last week on the rebel stronghold of Douma, east of Damascus, senior Trump administration officials said Saturday.
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