WASHINGTON - The influential pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC urged U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday to approve a resolution allowing the Obama administration to retaliate for chemical weapons use in Syria.
“AIPAC urges Congress to grant the president the authority he has requested to protect America’s national security interests and dissuade the Syrian regime’s further use of unconventional weapons,” AIPAC said in a letter to members of Congress obtained by Reuters.
“Support the president’s effort to protect American security interests,” read the banner headline on the letter, the first time the lobbying group has weighed in on the Syria crisis.
“The civilized world cannot tolerate the use of these barbaric weapons, particularly against an innocent civilian population including hundreds of children,” the group said.
President Barack Obama has asked Congress for authorization for the use of military force against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after a two-year civil war that has killed 100,000 people and an apparent chemical weapons attack the killed more than 1,000 civilians.
“America’s allies and adversaries are closely watching the outcome of this momentous vote,” AIPAC said in the letter signed by its president, Michael Kassen, and chief executive, Howard Kohr.
Members of Obama’s administration have been urging lawmakers to back intervention, often making the case that failure to act against Syria would endanger Israel by allowing instability on its borders and emboldening Iran, which western powers believe is developing nuclear weapons.
“This is a critical moment when America must also send a forceful message of resolve to Iran and Hezbollah - both of whom have provided direct and extensive military support to Assad,” AIPAC said in its statement.