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Torres Small wants to see intel on air strike

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U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-NM, outside Pearson auditorium on the New Mexico Military Institute campus in May. While in Roswell Saturday, Torres Small said she wants to see the intelligence behind a drone strike that killed an Iranian general last week before deciding whether the attack was the right decision. (Daily Record File Photo)

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-NM, said while Qassem Soleimani was a terrorist and enemy of the United States, she wants to see more information about the military operation and the threat the Iranian general posed before deciding if the strike was the best move.

Soleimani, a leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, was killed Thursday in a U.S. military drone strike in Baghdad carried out at the order of President Donald Trump. The U.S. Department of Defense stated in a press release following the attack that Soleimani was developing plans to attack American service members and diplomats in the region.

“The question is whether his (Soleimani’s) death will destabilize a region that could put Americans in further peril and push us into war and whether that action is worth it,” Torres Small said Saturday while visiting Roswell.

Conclusions about those concerns are reached based on the intelligence about the alleged attacks, something Torres Small said Saturday that she had not yet seen.

“How serious were the plans? How trustworthy was the source, and does this death stop those plans? We don’t have that information yet,” Torres Small said.

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She added that she expects to be briefed on the threat when she returns to Washington, D.C.

In the absence of such intelligence and facts, Torres Small said, it is easy for people to base their views of the necessity of the military strike on how they feel about Trump. The situation involving Iran, she said, is much too important to become a partisan issue.

In New Mexico, responses among political leaders and elected officials largely fell along partisan lines. Steve Pearce, chair of the Republican Party of New Mexico, said the strike was a quick and decisive response.

“The airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Soleimani is another indicator that President Trump and his administration will not stand idly by when Americans are at risk. The president will protect Americans and American interests,” Pearce said.

New Mexico U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall— both Democrats— were more critical. Both senators worried that the attack could enflame tensions in the Middle East and bring the United States closer to war with Iran.

Heinrich said in a tweet Friday that Trump “just lit a match in the world’s largest powder keg.”

In a statement released soon after the strike on Soleimani, Udall accused Trump of bringing the U.S. “to the brink of an illegal war with Iran without congressional approval, as required by the United States Constitution.”

“Congress must step in immediately to reclaim its Constitutional war powers,” Udall said. “I urge members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to show courage on this issue, and I urge the Trump administration to change course and pursue diplomacy before we are entangled in yet another war in the Middle East with no end in sight.”

Most of the time, the president should consult Congress before taking military action such as the operation that killed Soleimani, Torres Small said. However, she said, that depends on whether the threat was imminent.

When asked whether Trump should seek authorization from Congress before any further military action is taken against Iran, Torres Small reiterated she wanted to see the intelligence about Soleimani.

“We need the information about how serious this threat is. We need that information before I can make any prognostications about further actions,” she said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.