House Democrat warns Iran is destabilizing Iraq

House Democrat warns Iran is destabilizing Iraq
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A Democratic congressman who recently traveled to Iraq is warning that Iran is acting as a destabilizing force in that country. 

"What's become really clear is that Iran wants to be a major force in Iraq. And they're willing to spend a lot of money to destabilize it and keep the whole thing going, and keep the region unstable," Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) told The Hill in a recent interview.  

Ryan said he learned that Iran controlled about 45 of the news stations in Iraq, which broadcast anti-American messages. 

"The message of anti-Americanism, anti-U.S. that we're the big problem in the world is the only message getting out in that region, and I think we need ... to get the message out in that region," he said.

Iran's influence over Iraq grew after Saddam Hussein's government was overthrown in the U.S.-led Iraq War.

Tehran has supported Iraq's Shia-led government, which critics say has persecuted the country's Sunnis. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a Sunni extremist group, created a foothold in Iraq as the Islamic factions battled.

The U.S. has pushed current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to undertake political reforms to allow for more Sunni autonomy and representation, but progress has been slow. 

Ryan said he did see some signs of reform.  

"The prime minister wanted to completely retool his Cabinet because there was a huge protest outside of the compound — Sunni-led — and he is offering now to retool his Cabinet," Ryan said. 

"The fact that he said he was going to redo his Cabinet, I think, was a fairly good sign that he's opening up and understanding that the Sunnis really have to have buy-in, and these chiefs and these Sunni leaders have to have buy-in," he said. 

Ryan also called for a comprehensive plan to go after ISIS, and more investment in protecting the homeland from terrorists.  

"We need to figure out what the game plan is and go at it hard, and it needs to be comprehensive and it needs to be smart and it needs to be consistent," he said. 

"We need to be very committed to securing that region of the world, because those ISIS fighters are coming out of Syria and Iraq, and they're coming through Turkey and they're making their way through the West and into the United States if they can." 

"They're hellbent on getting into the United States," he said.