Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday the United States was "ready to go" when it comes to military action in Syria, where more than 100,000 have been killed in a two year civil war.
The announcement comes following Secretary of State John Kerry's declaration Tuesday that President Bashar al-Assad and his government forces had deployed chemical weapons in an attack that killed hundreds last week.
"We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take," Hagel told BBC News. Hagel is currently in Brunei on a pre-planned trip.
Assad's regime has denied using chemical weapons and instead claimed they had found evidence that the rebels were responsible. Top Russian officials, Syrian government allies, have also said there's no reason to believe the regime had used chemical weapons. A U.N. inspection team was attacked by sniper fire Sunday when they attempted to evaluate the scene.
But Hagel said he was confident the evidence will show chemical weapons had been used by Assad's forces.
"I think the intelligence will conclude that it wasn't the rebels who used it and there'll probably be pretty good intelligence to show that the Syria government was responsible," he said. "But we'll wait and determine what the facts and the intelligence bear out."
The U.S. is preparing for action, with President Barack Obama phoning international allies in the United Kingdom and France over the weekend and the White House reached out to top members of Congress. Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron called Parliament into session to discuss possible military action.
"This afternoon, [House Speaker John Boehner] had preliminary communication with the White House about the situation in Syria and any potential U.S. response," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the speaker, late Monday. "The speaker made clear that before any action is taken there must be meaningful consultation with members of Congress, as well as clearly defined objectives and a broader strategy to achieve stability."
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday he also had been contacted by White House officials and supports "something surgical" in terms of military intervention.
"John Kerry cannot make the kind of comments he made yesterday publicly and not respond," Corker said to MSNBC's Chuck Todd. "Look it's going to happen in my opinion."
Kerry made the humanitarian case against Assad's forces alleged use of chemical weapons, likely in part to ready the American public for action. There were reports the Obama administration would de-classify some intelligence to present to the American public.
"What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world," he said. "The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it was inexcusable."
About 60 percent of Americans oppose military intervention in Syria, according to the most recent poll, with just 9 percent supporting it.
Michael Singh, managing director at the Washington Institute, a D.C.-based think tank focused on U.S. policy in the Middle East, says U.S. action will be dictated by the goals, which have been fluid.
"You'll see something that is geared toward punishing Assad for the use of chemical weapons and trying to deter him from their further use," he says, but adds it's unlikely Obama will call for strong enough action to change the balance of power in Syria.
And Russian opposition means the U.S. will have to move towards an international coalition outside the U.N. Security Council, where Russia has veto power.
"There are no conceivable circumstances under which Russia will agree to military actions inside Syria," Singh says. "So clearly if the United States is going to act, it's going to have to seek alternate avenues for building an alliance and I think the most obvious choice is NATO. This is not without precedent."
Obama was famously critical of President George W. Bush for starting a war in Iraq without the support of international allies and has spent his administration trying to extract the United States from wars in the Middle East.