Brookings Doha Center Director Salman Shaikh spoke to Foreign Policy at Brookings on July 19 and described the rapidly deteriorating situation in Damascus. His comments follow the July 18 bombing that resulted in the deaths of Syria’s defense minister and deputy defense minister and Russia and China’s veto of the U.S.-backed U.N. resolution calling for further sanctions. The failure of the U.N. resolution made it unclear what would happen after the current mandate expires on July 20. (The U.N. Security Council has since approved a 30-day monitoring extension.) Shaikh further spoke about the international community’s responsibility in addressing these developments and the opposition’s readiness to take control if and when the Assad regime loses power.
I think it's unusual for the chief of staff to go on a trip, particularly on a trip this long. The chief of staff is usually more of a chief operating officer in the White House itself, and normally when your principal—whether it's the president himself or the head of Cabinet agency—goes abroad, you have his deputy and those folks staying behind to help manage operations in his absence.