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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 28th, 2013
05:46 PM ET

Analysis: How will Syria respond to a U.S. strike?

The U.S. is close to taking military action in Syria.

The LA Times reported Wednesday, "One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity 'just muscular enough not to get mocked' but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia. 'They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic,' he said."

"Doing something very small like that is worse than doing nothing at all," said said Christopher Harmer, senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.

"What we have right now in Syria is literally millions of civilians who are not aligned, looking for some reason to believe that the U.S. is going to help them in their fight. If we don't help, it may be the last best hope is to ally themselves with al Qaeda," said Harmer.

The al Qaeda presence in Syria would be extremely negative for long-term U.S. interests.

"If we don't intervene decisively, than we should not intervene at all," said Harmer.

When he was running for office, President Barack Obama said he was not opposed to all wars, just dumb wars. But sending in a cruise missile attack without follow up may be just that.

"The president faces some very bad options. He's got bad options, he's got worse options, he's got horrible options. There is no clean option here," said Harmer. "I would say that doing something cosmetic would be worse than doing nothing at all."

Syrian Bashar al-Assad is likely hearing news that an attack from the U.S. is imminent, and taking action.

"He's ordering his forces to evacuate the bases he thinks will be hit. He's also, in conjunction with his Russian allies and Iran, trying to come up with a plan on exactly what happens after this," said Andrew Tabler, Syria expert and senior fellow at The Washington Institute.

"This is going to be quite public," said Tabler. A U.S. strike would be "hard for him to shrug off, and so we can expect out of Bashar al-Asad a lot of bluster."

For more analysis, check out the video above.

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