Mr. Speaker, Iran's network of terrorist proxies continues to expand across the Middle East. Wherever there is conflict and division, a militant group backed by Iran can be found. They have become powerful political and military actors in weak states because Tehran provides the money and weapons for them to murder and intimidate their way into power.
But what are we, the United States of America, doing about it? For one thing, we have finally re-applied sanctions on Iran after the terrible nuclear deal allowed these proxies to go well-funded and unchallenged. This allows us to target finances of the primary patron for chaos in the Middle East: Iran. But on the local level, in the multiple arenas where Tehran and its proxies are battling for control we are doing very little. Our own State Department has blocked any aggressive effort that would target some of Iran's most capable proxies. Why?
One of the most important arenas for competing against Iran's growing influence is in Iraq. That nation has seen nearly two decades of war, most recently with the fight against ISIS. Iran has exploited Iraq's chaos to raise several proxies that have killed Americans and Iraqis. While one of Tehran's earliest Iraqi proxies, Kataib Hezbollah, was designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2009, others have operated with impunity. This includes two of the Iran's most powerful proxies: Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (HHN). In recent years these two militias have been the vanguard of Iran's activities in the region, including sowing sectarian division in Iraq and fighting on behalf of the butcher Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Yet when I introduced legislation that would designate AAH and HHN for terrorism--which nearly every expert agrees they are complicate in--the State Department has worked to shield these groups. U.S. Embassy staff in Baghdad was very dismissive of this legislation and ridiculed it. It seems to me that the embassy is ignorant of the threat of these groups that have American blood on their hands. Even one of these terrorist groups attacked the embassy after the embassy opposed the terrorist designation. Meanwhile, these groups have seized 15 seats in Iraq's parliament. So what has the state department accomplished other than obstruct Congressional lawmaking? Iraq is closer to being an Iranian client-state than ever before. The State Department should not join in with Iran and oppose this legislation.
President Trump has made clear that confronting Iranian expansionism is a key priority of his administration. But the State Department has instead adopted a strategy to protect Iran's proxies and undermine the American legislative process. We need our diplomats to be sending a strong signal that terrorist militias acting on behalf of Iran must not be taking power in Iraq. Now is a critical time in that country, with the Iraqi people in the streets demanding Iran out of their country. America should be standing with them, not with the Mullahs and their thugs.
And that's just the way it is.