1856 GMT: Syria. Two signs that things may be coming to a head in Syria. First, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the US is already planning "contingency plans" if chemical weapons are used in Syria. No word on what those plans are, but "contingency plans" typically range from special forces operations or surgical airstrikes to full-scale intervention. This may seem liek a small statement, but at no other point in time has the US even recognized the possibility that a military plan was on the table.
Also, the UN is pulling all non-essential staff out of Syria:
Citing the "prevailing security situation", the organisation has also cancelled all missions to Syria from abroad and suspended its activities inside the war-ravaged country.
The announcement was made by the UN's under-secretary for safety and security, Gregory Starr, on Monday afternoon. It marks the final step before a full-scale evacuation, a move that has not been ordered at any point during Syria's steady descent into chaos over the past 20 months.
UN staff has been near the line of fire for more than a year, so what makes now so important? It could be escalating tensions between Turkey and Syria. Or it could be those "contingency plans" and "chemical weapons" which are prompting the UN to make the move.
Regardless, two unprecedented announcements like this, coming within hours of each other, don't look like a coincidence.
[link to www.enduringamerica.com