Earlier today a chemical weapons strike was launched against a Syrian city held by the “rebel” forces. These days we don’t really know what “rebels” means other than they are hostile to the Assad government.

Initial reports blame Assad.

The United States blamed the Syrian government and its patrons, Russia and Iran, on Tuesday for one of the deadliest chemical weapons attacks in years in Syria, one that killed dozens of people in Idlib Province, including children, and sickened scores more.

A senior State Department official said the attack appeared to be a war crime and called on Russia and Iran to restrain the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria from carrying out further chemical strikes.

Britain, France and Turkey joined Washington in condemning the attack, which they also attributed to Mr. Assad’s government. The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to be briefed on the attack on Wednesday.

One of the worst atrocities attributed to the Syrian government since President Trump took office, it poses a potential policy dilemma for the administration, which would like to shift the focus in Syria entirely to fighting the Islamic State.

This is a mystery because in 2015 Barack Obama told us that a) Assad no longer had chemical weapons but if he did, b) we’d get the Russians to put a stop to it.

My commitment was to make sure that Syria was not using chemical weapons and mobilizing the international community to assure that that would not happen. And, in fact, we positioned ourselves to be willing to take military action. The reason we did not was because Assad gave up his chemical weapons. That’s not speculation on our part. That, in fact, has been confirmed by the organization internationally that is charged with eliminating chemical weapons,” Mr. Obama said last Thursday after a Camp David meeting with officials from the Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf.

If we have the kinds of confirmation that we need, we will, once again, work with the international community and the organization charged with monitoring compliance by the Syrian government, and we will reach out to patrons of Assad, like Russia, to put a stop to it.

Two things have happened. The media, and John McCain, to the extent they are different, has moved to try to make this attack a problem for Trump.

As might be expected, the Trump administration is not taking this lying down.

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The Trump foreign policy team is focusing on attacking ISIS as a way of strengthening Arab “partners” in the Middle East with the idea being that a unified Sunni resistance can put the brakes on Iranian expansionism. This, you will note, is a 180 from the Obama administration which did everything in its power to shift influence to Tehran. The recent statements by Haley and Tillerson to the effect that our foreign policy is not being driven by the regime change in Syria are being portrayed as acquiescence to the chemical attacks.

Calls like these to “do something” are well meaning but useless.

The fact is that with most of Syria under a Russian air defense umbrella it would be impossible for us to do anything without killing a few hundred Russians. You don’t have to think Russia is a friend or ally to see why that is not a great idea.

There are no good choices available. Obama went supine on Assad because Assad is an Iranian client and he couldn’t afford to offend the mullahs while his signature nuclear deal was being negotiated. More to the point, the last administration single-handedly set off this civil war by its words and actions and turned what would have been a small, run of the mill slaughter by Assad’s security forces into a multiyear exercise in genocide. This war is going to perk along until everyone gets tired of the killing and as you are talking about adherents of the Religion of Peace, I hope you packed your lunch and brought along a couple of good books because it is going to be a while.