Just yesterday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel expressed surprise at an Israeli report that the Assad government in Syria was using chemical weapons.

“Suspicions are one thing, evidence is another,” he said.

The Pentagon chief added that “this is serious business and you want to be as sure as you can be on these kind of things”.

That was yesterday, today is a different story.  Speaking in Abu Dhabi Hagel announced

 U.S. intelligence has concluded “with some degree of varying confidence,” that the Syrian government has used sarin gas as a weapon in its 2-year-old civil war, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.

Hagel, speaking to reporters said the White House has informed two senators by letter that, within the past day, “our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin.”

“It violates every convention of warfare,” Hagel said.

No information was made public on what quantity of chemical weapons might have been used, or when or what casualties might have resulted.

While he was making his announcement the White House was sending a letter to Senators McCain and Levin (embedded below).

White House legislative director Miguel Rodriguez, who signed the letter, wrote that “because the president takes this issue so seriously, we have an obligation to fully investigate any and all evidence of chemical weapons use within Syria.

He also said the U.S. believes that the use of chemical weapons “originated with the Assad regime.” That is consistent with the Obama administration’s assertion that the Syrian rebels do not have access to the country’s stockpiles.

This is a huge deal not only because the use of chemical weapons is a war crime, but because President Obama drew a line in the sand, there would be consequences if chemical weapons were introduced to that “civil” war.

Hopefully the President will back up that threat with enough force to prove America says what she means, but not enough force that puts more American heroes in harms way.