GAZIANTEP, TURKEY - Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-Boston), the leading Democrat on the House National Security Subcommittee, arrived today in Gaziantep, Turkey after spending four days in Kuwait, Iraq, and Jordan. Lynch is part of a Congressional Delegation led by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and including Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Worcester) focused on assessing the fight against ISIL and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria.

Amidst reports that Kurdish fighters are struggling in the war against ISIL, the delegation traveled to Erbil and met with Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, and humanitarian groups. President Barzani and Prime Minister Barzani thanked the U.S. and Coalition partners for critical airstrikes and urged greater support for the ongoing war against ISIL. Congressman Lynch was an early congressional supporter of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s request for U.S. military equipment and intelligence assistance in its efforts against ISIL. During the meetings, the delegation emphasized the need for closer Erbil-Baghdad cooperation. They also expressed appreciation to local leaders in Erbil, including Archbishop Warda of the Chaldean Catholic Church, for the role these individuals are playing in providing assistance and protection for religious minorities.   

Following the ISIS capture of Ramadi, a provincial capital, the delegation met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad to discuss efforts to strengthen ties with Sunni tribes in Anbar province. The delegation also met with Iraqi Minister of Defense Khaled al-Obeidi, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jabouri, Anbar Governor Suhaib al-Rawi, and several Sunni tribal sheiks to hear their perspectives on the current challenges to national reconciliation efforts, including winning the battle against ISIL. Throughout the meetings, Congressman Lynch stressed the importance of the Iraqis leading the efforts to defeat ISIL, noting that training efforts have been hampered by a lack of Iraqi recruits. 

“As the U.S. and coalition partners provide air support, it is critically important that Iraq's Shia, Sunni and Kurdish ground forces lead this battle and that they fight as one,” said Congressman Lynch.

The delegation also met with U.S. service members as well as foreign service officers, including some from Massachusetts, to thank them for their service and sacrifice.

The delegation will head to the Turkey/Syria border region to meet with rebel fighters. Other delegation members include Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Congressman Brian Higgins and Congressman Peter Welch.

This visit marks Congressman Lynch’s 16th to Iraq since his election to Congress in 2001.