Trump could mitigate some of those risks by assuring the Russians that the strikes are designed solely to punish Assad for using chemical weapons and not to tip the balance in the broader civil war.It is also possible that the strikes could give the United States added leverage to broker a compromise with the Russians that would end the civil war, some analysts said.
"The political message a strike would send is that you are using an approach that is completely different than the previous administration," said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute.
Such a move would probably induce anxiety inside the Syrian regime that the United States could use to its advantage.
"Creating uncertainty and being unpredictable might get you a lot more than what the Obama administration was willing to do, which was nothing," Tabler said.
Even as they acknowledged the big risks of a strike and their concerns about Trump's erratic nature, some Obama administration officials urged action.
"If you don't act, you are effectively telling Assad and the regime's backers that you can use as much sarin as you want," said Gordon, who served as a senior director for the Middle East in the Obama White House.
"Assad tested Obama. Now there is an early test for Trump."