Syria steps up attacks?

Many analysts believe a U.S. attack would be aimed largely at making a statement that using chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war is unacceptable -- and that President Barack Obama is serious about his "red line."

The attack would be unlikely to severely damage al-Assad, analysts say. But a limited attack brings its own dangers.

"Doing something cosmetic would be worse than doing nothing at all," says Christopher Harmer, senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.

It would send a message to al-Assad "that he has relative immunity from us, that he can continue to do whatever he wants short of massive chemical attacks on civilians," Harmer said in a CNN interview.

Some other analysts fear al-Assad would respond with new chemical weapons attacks.

read more