It took Chuck Hagel 24 hours to reverse himself and agree with an Israeli intelligence assessment that indicated Syria had used chemical weapons against rebels in the two-year civil war in that country. U.S. intelligence, he said, had "some degree of varying confidence" that Syria used chemical weapons on a "small scale." Not exactly the aluminum tubes and empty chemical warheads of the phantom WMD stockpile used to justify the invasion of Iraq ten years ago. Syria denies the claim and accuses Syrian rebels of using chemical weapons instead.
Nevertheless, chemical weapons constitute the red line Barack Obama and many Western leaders drew on intervention in Syria. John McCain and Dianne Feinstein are leading a bipartisan push for a "strong" intervention as a response to the chemical weapons allegations, echoing the call of the Western-backed rebel faction in Syria.
A "soft" intervention in Syria by the West's long started, evidenced by the existence of a Western-backed rebel faction in Syria itself. Earlier this week, the European Union eased sanctions on Syria to permit the purchase of oil from rebels. The Socialist president in France, fresh off an ongoing military intervention in Mali, is leading the push in Europe to arm Syria's rebels, and says his country will do so. The British government, itching too to provide more support to rebel groups in Syria, is nevertheless worried British nationals are joining extremists in the fight in Syria. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has joined too, which led to the CIA stepping up its role in Iraqi counterterrorism last month. Last week, the U.S. announced an additional $110 million in aid to Syria's rebels (on top of at least $60 million pledged in February and $45 million last September, plus covert aid authorized sometime last summer).
The U.S. is also deploying troops to Jordan (price tag: $70 million) and has sent military advisors to the country in relation to the rebellion in Syria. Embattled Syrian officials warn increased American intervention and support for the rebels (which the regime identifies as terrorists) will lead to a "fire of terrorism" spreading around the world.