U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar is being accused of holding contradictory views on Iran and Israel.
At a news conference Wednesday, the Minnesota Democrat condemned the Trump administration’s planned sanctions against Iran, calling them “crippling” and asserting they would “starve the Iranian people.
But critics noted she simultaneously supports the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, which promotes punitive actions against Israel.
“Since he got into office, the president of the United States has been goading Iran into war,” Omar said Wednesday, referring to President Trump. “First he canceled our best shot at avoiding armed conflict – the Iran nuclear deal. Then he announced crippling sanctions to starve the innocent people of Iran.”
Trump addressed the nation the morning after Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two bases in Iraq where U.S. service members are stationed. He also announced the U.S. would impose new “powerful” sanctions against Iran until “Iran changes its behavior.”
“This makes no sense. Sanctions are economic warfare,” Omar also tweeted after Trump’s address. “They have already caused medical shortages and countless deaths in Iran. You cannot claim to want deescalation and then announce new sanctions with no clear goal. This is not a measured response!”
Meanwhile, Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. — the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress — have come out in support of the BDS movement since they were first sworn into Congress last January following the 2018 midterm elections. Tlaib is Palestinian-American, whereas Omar fled the Somali Civil War in 1991 and spent four years at a Kenyan refugee camp before immigrating to the U.S. in 1995. She later became a U.S. citizen.
Critics on social media said Omar’s positions regarding Iran and Israel didn’t add up.
“Ilhan Omar views sanctions on terror regimes to be ‘economic warfare’ but supports them when aimed at the world’s only Jewish state. Must just be a coincidence,” one Twitter user quipped in response to Omar’s tweet.
“Ilhan Omar has now decried sanctions on the Castros in Cuba, Maduro in Venezuela, and the Ayatollah in Iran,” Michael Abrams, a GOP communications director, wrote. “At the same time, she’s the leading voice in Congress on sanctioning the Jewish people in the world’s only Jewish state. Wonder why.”
“Yes, constitutionally intl boycotts & sanctions are tools of war and NOT ‘free speech.’ @IlhanMN should remember that next time she advocates for BDS (Boycott Divestment & Sanctions) against Israel: a US ally,” Daniel Pomerantz, an on-air law expert, also chimed in. “We don’t fight wars against allies. We do against enemies.”
The Democrat-led House of Representative overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan resolution in July opposing the “anti-Semitic” BDS movement aimed at encouraging a boycott against the longtime U.S. ally. Omar, Tlaib and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., were among the 16 Democrats who voted against the resolution.
“By denying the Jewish claim to a homeland, the BDS Movement is fundamentally incompatible with a two-state solution and pushes the cause of peace for both Israel and the Palestinians further out of reach,” the resolution said. “This resolution makes clear that Congress remains committed to a two-state solution and opposes zero-sum efforts to delegitimize the state of Israel.”
Omar, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has been outspoken against Israel, once tweeting that lawmakers were supportive of the Jewish state because they were essentially being paid for it. It was widely considered a slur that relied on a trope against Jewish people, and she later “unequivocally” apologized.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to block Omar and Tlaib from entering the country as part of their planned visit in August due to their support for sanctions against Israel. The move prompted a massive outcry from Democratic lawmakers in Washington, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling it a “sign of weakness” and Omar accusing Israel of implementing “Trump’s Muslim ban.”
Trump later facilitated their entry after Tlaib pleaded to be allowed to visit her elderly Palestinian grandmother. The congresswoman ultimately decided not to travel to Israel, prompting Trump to call the whole move a “stunt.”
Also Wednesday, Omar faced backlash from veterans after claiming during the same news conference that she’s “stricken with PTSD” because of recent events in the Middle East. She was also seen on camera giggling in the background of the news conference as her colleague discussed American service members who’ve died serving in Iraq.
The failed Iranian attack Tuesday night, thwarted by the U.S. military’s Early Warning Systems, was in retaliation for the U.S. strike last week that took out top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
“The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it. American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent,” Trump said in his speech.
He also pointed the finger at former President Barack Obama for signing the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), claiming “The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.”
In May 2018, Trump withdrew American support from the Iranian nuclear deal with world powers that was signed by his predecessor in 2015. His administration reimposed waves of sanctions on Tehran, while the Iranian regime violated the agreement’s restrictions on stockpiled uranium.
Trump has focused on the hundreds of billions of dollars that was unfrozen or sent to Iran directly as a result of the nuclear deal. He said Wednesday that the money allowed Iran to conduct a “terrorist spree” and create “hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq.”
A sum of $1.7 billion, a settlement of a decades-old dispute between the U.S. and Iran — was paid in cash, with a planeload of $400 million delivered to Tehran on Jan. 17 2016, the same day Iran agreed to release four American prisoners. A remaining $1.3 billion was reportedly paid out within weeks of that first payment.
An estimated $150 billion worth of Iranian assets frozen abroad in financial institutions as part of international sanctions before the Obama-era settlement was reached. That money was unfrozen by all countries as part of the Iran deal. Some fact-checkers have disputed that the value is as high as $150 billion, citing Treasury estimates that it could be around $55 billion in liquid assets.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw, Ronn Blitzer and Frank Miles contributed to this report.
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