WASHINGTON - After weeks of quietly working behind the scenes to build support for U.S. military intervention in Syria, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) formally called on Congress Tuesday to authorize airstrikes aimed at degrading the Syrian military's ability to use chemical weapons.

"It is imperative to adopt the resolution to authorize the use of force," the powerful Israel lobby said in a statement. It urged members of Congress to "take a firm stand that the world’s most dangerous regimes cannot obtain and use the most dangerous weapons."

One of the most effective lobbying groups in Washington, AIPAC could prove instrumental in helping the White House advance the case for military strikes. President Barack Obama has sought the approval of Congress for the strikes, but the outcome of votes in the House and Senate, expected next week, are far from certain.

The AIPAC statement was released as members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee grilled Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on details of the administration's plan.

Israel and other countries that border Syria have expressed concern that American military action could trigger reprisal attacks on U.S. allies in the region. But Kerry argued that the alternative -- not holding Assad "accountable" for what appear to be chemical weapons attacks by his regime -- would place Israel and its neighbors in even greater danger.

Read the entire AIPAC statement below:

AIPAC STATEMENT ON SYRIA RESOLUTION

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. The civilized world cannot tolerate the use of these barbaric weapons, particularly against an innocent civilian population including hundreds of children.

Simply put, barbarism on a mass scale must not be given a free pass.

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. The Syrian regime and its Iranian ally have repeatedly demonstrated that they will not respect civilized norms. That is why America must act, and why we must prevent further proliferation of unconventional weapons in this region.

America's allies and adversaries are closely watching the outcome of this momentous vote. This critical decision comes at a time when Iran is racing toward obtaining nuclear capability. Failure to approve this resolution would weaken our country's credibility to prevent the use and proliferation of unconventional weapons and thereby greatly endanger our country’s security and interests and those of our regional allies. AIPAC maintains that it is imperative to adopt the resolution to authorize the use of force, and take a firm stand that the world’s most dangerous regimes cannot obtain and use the most dangerous weapons.

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