U.S. President Barack Obama is evidently not getting the multinational coalition his administration was expecting to share the burden of a limited strike operation against Syria. The British parliament has voted against a military intervention, and NATO has said it would not participate in a U.S.-led mission. The United States can either unilaterally fire a symbolic but ineffective shot to demonstrate action for the sake of action, wage a highly unpopular multi-month air-land attack alone or abandon the military campaign altogether.
Without a meaningful coalition, the United States has little choice but to focus its efforts on a highly ambitious and difficult negotiated settlement involving Russia and Iran. The mounting limitations on the U.S. military option will redirect U.S. attention to an uphill diplomatic effort with difficult negotiating partners. Russia has an opportunity to demand U.S. attention on a number of issues related to defining a Russian sphere of influence in former Soviet territory and having the United States respect the boundaries that Moscow sets. Notably, any such deal would be designed to allow Russia and Iran to preserve political influence in Damascus. The low prospects of that negotiation on top of the limited utility of a unilateral punitive strike could lead the United States to back off its position toward Syria unless it sees a significant shift from still-wavering allies France and Turkey.