US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has called America’s allies in the Gulf “dictators” and said that agreements between regional states and Israel are not “peace deals”. Omar made her comments in an article in The Nation.
Calling on President-elect Joe Biden to reverse President Donald Trump’s deals with the Middle East, she said that the US is starting to “transition” to a new presidency “based on peace and cooperation”. Foreign policy, she suggested, has to be a priority.
“Trump has taunted, mocked and burned bridges with our allies, while simultaneously cosying up to some of the most brutal dictatorial regimes around the world, especially those in the oil-rich Middle East,” said the Democrat Representative for Minnesota. “The damage done by the Trump administration runs deep…” Biden, she added, has a “tremendous opportunity” to reorient US foreign policy in the region.
Omar cited Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal as an example of why this is needed. The deal, she pointed out, prevented Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons which could risk nuclear war.
She also referred to Trump’s links with Saudi Arabia, “a regime which “imprisons, tortures, and kills advocates for human rights and political reform in their own country.” Using US weapons, “Saudi Arabia has bombed, blockaded, starved and slaughtered thousands of Yemeni civilians.”
Criticising the Israeli normalisation deals with the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan brokered by Trump “in the run-up to the election”, Omar pointed out that, “Besides the very well-documented war crimes in Yemen, the UAE has also been credibly accused of committing war crimes in Libya.” It has also “badly [undercut] the transition to democracy in Sudan.” Bahrain, meanwhile, “is a brutal dictatorship that summarily executes political dissidents and protesters, including religious leaders; routinely uses torture and arbitrary detention; and targets human rights defenders and women.”
In truth, she stressed, these are arms sale deals to human rights abusers. “And they’re less about normalising relations with Israel than they are about forming military alliances against Iran… And we must ask: What do these agreements mean to the millions of Palestinians who continue to live under Israeli military occupation? Rather than make statehood or self-determination more likely, they have normalised the occupation and made real peace for Israelis and Palestinians increasingly unlikely.”
While Israel supposedly agreed to halt its planned annexation of Palestinian land in exchange for such deals, explained Omar, “Just this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank and ordered that imports from these settlements be labelled ‘Products of Israel’, suggesting that de facto annexation will move forward apace.”
Instead of the US siding with one group of dictators over another, she concluded, “We should position ourselves at an equal distance from both, allowing ourselves to be honest brokers, protecting our national security and interests while promoting human rights and democracy.”