Samantha Vinograd is a CNN National Security Analyst. She served on President Obama's National Security Council from 2009-2013 and at the Treasury Department under President Bush. Follow her @sam_vinograd. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. This commentary has been updated to reflect the news.
(CNN)Every week, I offer a glimpse of the kind of intelligence assessments that are likely to come across the desk of the President of the United States. Modeled on the President's Daily Briefing, or PDB, which the director of national intelligence prepares for the President almost daily, my Presidential Weekly Briefing focuses on the topics and issues the President needs to know to make informed decisions.
Mission semi-accomplished: From do not congratulate to do not escalate
- Respond to the Douma attack: This mission was accomplished. The coalition strikes were precisely aimed at punishing the Assad regime for its attack in Douma -- seen as a significant escalation in its ongoing use of chemical weapons. With 105 Tomahawk missiles, our intelligence indicates that coalition strikes successfully hit the targets we had identified for engagement.
- Hold Assad responsible: This mission was not accomplished. Despite hitting our targets, it does not appear that Assad feels any responsibility -- or shame -- for his use of chemical weapons. Syria and its patron, Russia, have continued to deny regime involvement in the attack, and Russia called for a special UN Security Council meeting on Saturday to condemn the coalition strikes for our "aggression" against a sovereign state. It is highly likely that the Syrian regime (and Russia) will continue to deny Assad's responsibility for using chemical weapons or, more broadly, targeting civilians and committing war crimes. Our coalition is convinced (as it has been in previous cases of chemical weapons use) that Assad was responsible, but the strikes have not changed Assad's public posture or personal sense of responsibility.
- Deter future chemical weapons use: The success of this mission is unknowable at this juncture. The administration publicly assessed that the strikes will significantly impact the regime's ability to develop, deploy and use chemical weapons in the future, and that the strikes set their chemical weapons program back by years. But whether the strikes levied an unbearable cost on the regime, such that it is deterred from using chemical weapons again because it doesn't want to risk suffering similar costs, will require further time to assess. Our deterrent capability will also rely on the Syrians, and any other actors considering chemical weapons use, believing that we will act again if they use those weapons. But the administration needs a consistent message on this point to have any real deterrent effect. White House comments about a sustained mission, Defense Secretary James Mattis' statements that this was a one-shot operation and then Ambassador Nikki Haley's comments about the US being locked and loaded to act again undermine our deterrent ability because of their inconsistency. Any whiplash associated with trying to ascertain administration policy is not going to deter bad actors from using chemical weapons because they won't be convinced that we're prepared to act again.
- Do not escalate: This mission was accomplished. The administration carefully calibrated the strikes, and public comments about their scale and intent, such that we did not upset the Russians too much. Public briefings noted the narrow scope of the coalition operation -- that the United States has a vital interest in preventing chemical weapons use -- and hence the missile strikes. We concurrently delivered the message that the United States has no interest in engaging in the Syrian civil war, and we emphasized that the main objective of US forces in Syria remains to "defeat ISIS." These messages were heard loud and clear in Moscow. Despite public displays of outrage, the Russians appear willing to take these strikes in stride. We have no indication that Russian air defense systems were employed against our missiles, which could indicate a Russian decision to not directly use their systems against the coalition, on the calculation that they didn't want to risk direct confrontation with our forces. In other words, Russia will voice discontent publicly and even use trolls and other means to amplify false information about the attack in Douma and the coalition response, but we shouldn't be too concerned.