Ryan’s Trip to Middle East Affirms Iran Nuclear Deal

WARREN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan says his trip last week to the Middle East reinforced his earlier decision to support the Iran nuclear deal.

But the congressman, who returned to the United States Sunday night following the week-long tour, said the United States needs to do more to win the “hears and minds” of people in the region.

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, joined a congressional delegation led by U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. During the tour, the delegation visited Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Iraq, as well as Naval Station Rota in Spain.

The itinerary included stops at various missile defense sites in the region.

“The issue of protecting the United States is the No. 1 issue we’re facing today, making sure that these really bad guys don’t get into our country,” Ryan, who serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee, said Monday.

Ryan told reporters today at his office here that the Iran deal, which aims to block its path to gaining nuclear weapons, was “the right move.”

Because of the threat Iran represents in the region, permitting it to gain nuclear weapons would be “an “absolute disaster,” he said.

“The Iran deal was not about saying Iran’s great. … The Iran deal was about saying let’s at least make sure that they don’t have nuclear weapons and I think we should at least try that process,” he said.

The Iranian people just reelected the government that supported the deal, which is a “good sign,” he continued. If U.S. military engagement is required because Iran cheated on the deal, “I would much rather do that having tried to prevent them from getting nuclear weapons than to just go in like a bull in a china shop,” he said.

Although the United States does not need additional infantry, more special forces are needed, Ryan said. Sequestration has inflicted “seep cuts” that have done “great damages” to the U.S. military and security apparatus, he observed.

“Congress needs to step up and act and not try to just give us bumper-sticker slogans about a situation that is deeply complicated.”

Fighters have reclaimed about 40% of the territories overtaken by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and Iraqi security forces are doing a much better job, Ryan said. And the United States is doing better in terms of going after the oil money that funds terrorists and the Iraqi forces are starting to come win battles.

“We’re not spending enough on winning the hearts and minds there, because at the end of the day, even if we get ISIS out of Iraq, even if they all go into Syria, we’ve still got Iraq, and we’ve still got all the different ethnic groups,” he remarked. “We’ve got to start politically and diplomatically and through persuasion say, ‘We want you to be a partner with us.’ ”

Iranians control 40 of the 43 or 44 TV stations in Iraq so the majority of the Iraqi people only hear anti-American propaganda, he said. “We’re not doing a good enough job of pushing back. We need to get our story out about what America is about, what it would be like to live in a free society, as opposed to living under a bunch of radicals who want you to live by Sharia law.”

Ryan, who as part of the delegation met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, acknowledged that the Israeli leader “obviously” was upset about the Iran deal. “Everyone agreed to disagree, but we continue to appreciate the fact” that Israel faces threats from terrorist organizations in Lebanon, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Iran.

Alhough none of the leaders he met with wanted to comment much on the presidential campaign, Ryan acknowledged that there was a “general concern” that several of the individuals running “don’t fully comprehend the complexity, the scope or the responsibility” of the U.S.’s role conducting the global war on terror.

“There was a general concern the rhetoric coming out of the United States right now is not good,” he noted.

“To hear people saying, ‘Oh we just carpet bomb,’ ‘Oh we just blow them up,’ ‘Oh, just put me in and I’ll fix it,’ — it is so, so much more complicated than that. We need a sophisticated hand guiding the wheel of the ship of state in that regard,” he said.

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