Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013 | 9:33 a.m.
Plans for the Senate to vote to authorize limited military strikes in Syria are on hold. But should the resolution come up, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller won’t be supporting it.
“After extensive discussions with the White House and those concerned about the constitutionality of military intervention, I do not believe a strategic attack on Syria is in the best interest of the United States at this time,” Heller said in a statement this morning.
Heller joins a growing chorus of lawmakers who have expressed skepticism and reluctance to involve the United States, even peripherally, in the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Proponents of engagement, including Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, have said the U.S. must respond to evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons in an attack against his people Aug. 21.
Last year, President Barack Obama said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “red line.”
In making its case for intervention, the Obama administration pledged that ground troops would not be part of the Syria strategy.
But many, including Heller, suspect that should Syria respond to a limited American strike as an act of war, the U.S. military could get sucked into another long-running Middle Eastern conflict, as happened in Iraq.
“Any strategic attack has the potential to become an act of war, and should be treated as such,” Heller said. “Before I vote to put members of Nevada’s families in harm’s way, a full justification for war must be provided.”
Heller will have the chance to discuss his concerns with Obama this afternoon, when the president will visit Capitol Hill to meet and discuss Syria with Democrats and Republicans.
Obama, meanwhile, is weighing an offer orchestrated by the Russians to have Syria turn over its chemical weapons to international control. The Syrian government formally accepted the offer this morning.
That development has put plans to vote on the Syria resolution — previously scheduled for Wednesday morning — on hold.
“If there’s a realistic chance, and I certainly hope there is, to secure Syria’s weapons...we shouldn’t turn our backs on that chance,” Reid said this morning. “We don’t need to prove how quickly we can do this but how well we can do this.”
“The Syrian regime should fully understand the United States is watching very, very closely,” Reid said.