Western military forces could be planning a strike against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the coming days, following allegations that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in an attack. Reuters reports that members of the "friends of Syria" alliance, which includes the US, informed the Syrian National Coalition opposition group of their plans at a meeting in Istanbul. "The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days," a source said, "and that they should still prepare for peace talks at Geneva."
Syria is known to have a stockpile of mustard gas and other chemical weapons, but Assad's regime and its opposition have long blamed each other for attacks. The UN said in June that small-scale chemical attacks had likely been made, but it didn't solidly point the finger at either party. A recent attack, however, left hundreds dead with symptoms that suggested nerve gas was involved, and Assad's forces were blamed. Since then, international tensions have stretched to the breaking point. A UN chemical weapons inspection team was shot at by snipers as it attempted to investigate the attack, and the Obama administration has begun preparing for a potential missile strike on Syria despite its hesitance to intervene.
Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned the Syrian government that the international norms banning chemical weapons "cannot be violated without consequences." While he stopped short of making specific threats, he made it clear that the Obama regime suspects Assad of being responsible for a nerve gas attack. "We know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons," he said in a statement. "We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place. And with our own eyes, we have all of us become witnesses."
Update: The League of Arab States has also come out against Assad, blaming his regime for last week's chemical attack.
Update 2: In an interview, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says that the US military is "ready to go, like that," if President Obama orders a strike. "We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take."