Sen. Martin Heinrich said Monday that he will support a resolution authorizing the president to use military force in Syria, splitting with Sen. Tom Udall, who has argued against U.S. intervention.
Heinrich – like Udall a New Mexico Democrat – said in a letter to constituents that he would support President Barack Obama’s proposal for military intervention only if the congressional resolution rules out deployment of U.S. troops in Syria.
But Heinrich, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the U.S. has an obligation to take action on the heels of U.S. evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons, killing hundreds of children and other civilians outside Damascus last month.
“I have seen how Assad incrementally tests the international community as he employs more and more brutal tactics in order to cling to power,” Heinrich said. “And I can tell you that Aug.t 21 was not just some anomaly, but that it is part of a long and predictable pattern of behavior.”
The first-term senator said the push for military action in Syria should be viewed differently from the 2003 push for war in Iraq.
“I know that we are a nation that is not only rightfully weary of war, but also jaded by the dishonest use of cooked intelligence reports that led to terrible mistakes in Iraq,” Heinrich said. “But this is not Iraq, and we have a moral obligation to deter Assad and every regime watching him from thinking that they can gas their people with impunity, commit genocide, or employ internationally prohibited weapons.”
Heinrich’s support for a military strike came as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the first Senate vote for military action, scheduled for Wednesday, would be postponed. Reid cited “international discussions” related to alternative diplomatic solutions.
Udall, New Mexico’s senior senator, has made his opposition to a U.S. military intervention in Syria known nationally.
“I haven’t changed my mind,” Udall said Sunday on “Meet the Press.” “… I think the American people don’t want to be embroiled in a Middle Eastern civil war. This is an act of war that we’re going to take. We haven’t exhausted all of our political, economic and diplomatic alternatives, and that’s where I want to be focusing.”
Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., also has voiced opposition to U.S. military intervention in Syria.
Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham, both Democrats, previously have said they were undecided whether military action in Syria is warranted.