Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (MA-09) is currently leading a congressional delegation (CODEL) to Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. The other members of the CODEL include Congressmen Rob Wittman (R-VA) and Peter Welch (D-VT). This is Congressman Lynch’s seventh trip to Iraq.
While in Iraq, Lynch will meet with General David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to discuss the security situation and continue evaluation of the military surge operations in Baghdad and in Ramadi, a Sunni stronghold that is the capital of Anbar Province.
Lynch will also visit key infrastructure projects around the country and will visit Rusafa Courthouse and prison complex, adjacent to Sadr City, where thousands of suspects are being held on terrorism charges. Lynch and the delegation members will tour the prison and speak with inmates and Iraqi judges. Lynch is also scheduled to meet with several Massachusetts-based Guard and Reserve units.
“There are an unusually high number of Massachusetts units that are here in Iraq on the current rotation. It gives me an opportunity to meet with our Massachusetts solders and Marines to thank them for their patriotism and listen to their concerns,” Lynch said from Camp Ar Ramadi.
A related goal of Lynch’s trip is to examine the plight of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. In Jordan, Congressman Lynch will meet with several relief groups including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and Save the Children to discuss the status of Iraqi refugees in that country. While in Lebanon, Lynch will meet with Ambassador Khalil Makkawi, President of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, and key political leaders in Lebanon, including Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and General Michel Suleiman.
Lynch’s stop in Lebanon will also focus on land mine removal efforts in South Lebanon following clashes between Israeli troops and Hezbollah militia during the summer of 2006.
“In the aftermath of the battle between the Israelis and Hezbollah there are now literally thousands of cluster bombs scattered across areas of southern Lebanon. There have been numerous reports of innocent children being maimed and killed by these discarded munitions. Every time a child gets injured, tensions naturally flare up, so we’re pushing hard to get these cluster bombs marked and cleared as quickly as possible,” Lynch stated. “The problem is that this is rocky and uneven terrain and there are thousands of these cluster bombs, about the size of a size D battery, but they’re still very dangerous.”
Congressman Lynch increased funding by $5 million for landmine removal programs through an amendment to the FY2007 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill (H.R. 5522). Most of the de-mining is being conducted by the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) in Lebanon.
As Co-Chairman of the House Task Force on Terrorist Financing and Proliferation, Lynch will meet with Rick McDonnell, executive secretary of the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to assess progress in the financial measures taken against Iran. Lynch also will meet with Adnan Lahasse, head of the Jordanian financial intelligence unit. The unit was established in June to help combat terrorist financing.