WASHINGTON — When US Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton visited Iraq last week, he encountered a familiar sight.
A veteran who served four tours in Iraq, Moulton joined in the US military effort to stomp out radical insurgents. Last week, the Salem Democrat stopped by Iraq to talk to current US armed forces. Their mission was the same — to free Iraqis from terrorism, this time against the Islamic State group.
“It’s safe to say there’s a lot of frustration there, refighting battles we won several years ago,” he said. “So much of what I fought for and helped achieve has frankly gone to waste.”
Moulton revisited his old battlegrounds as part of a congressional delegation that included US Representative Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and US Representative Steve Israel of New York. Besides Iraq, the group toured Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.
Returning home, Moulton said the United States needs a long-term political solution for both Iraq and Syria.
“We are asking our young men and women in the military to risk their lives without a strategic plan for our ultimate success,” Moulton said. “I have grave concerns that we are going to repeat the same thing we did six years ago in the Iraq War, which is defeat the terrorists and then just leave without a political plan to ensure stability of the country.”
The delegation also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss Iran’s ballistic missile testing and the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Moulton’s group was not the only congressional delegation in the Middle East last week. On Friday, US Representative Niki Tsongas returned with two senators and a representative from a multiday trip to Europe and the Middle East, meeting with world leaders, US military personnel, and Syrian refugees to scrutinize national security.
Tsongas, a Lowell Democrat, remembers walking into a gymnasium-sized room in Jordan that was chock full of row after row of Syrian families.
Syrians seeking to immigrate to Jordan must undergo exhaustive interviews that last hours, Tsongas observed.
“The threat of ISIS and its impact on Syria was made very real,” she said. “Just how it forced so many out of their country and forced them to live in ways they never could have imagined before all this began.”
The Jordan visit, which also included meeting Jordanian Prince Faisal Bin Al Hussein, drew a clear conclusion for Tsongas: The United States is not alone. In Syria and Iraq, the impressive ground regained from the Islamic State stands as a testament to US military working with other nations, she said.
“We do have partners in the region who share our concern and are willing to work with us within the framework of what’s possible for them,” she said. “This is a shared commitment, and we certainly saw that in Jordan.”
Tsongas’ delegation was also in Vienna to review implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, and in Israel to discuss the agreement’s enforcement with Netanyahu.