Ilhan Omar blasted for voting against Turkey sanctions bill

"It would be a humanitarian and geopolitical disaster."

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) attends a press event on the first 200 days of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2019 (photo credit: MARY F. CALVERT / REUTERS)
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) attends a press event on the first 200 days of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2019
(photo credit: MARY F. CALVERT / REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar did not support the bill that aims to hold Turkey accountable for its invasion of northern Syria.
Omar voted against the “Protect Against Conflict by Turkey Act” – a bill that imposes sanctions on the country.
The bill includes a mandatory asset freeze and visa ban against senior officials; stops all arms transfers that Turkey could use in Syria; and places sanctions on Halkbank, a Turkish bank with ties to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The bill also determines that the sanctions would terminate “only after Turkey halts attacks against the SDF,” the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Termination of the rest of the sanctions additionally requires that Turkish forces withdraw from Syria and that Ankara not hinder counter-terrorism operations against ISIS. Some 403 members of Congress supported the bill; 16 opposed the legislation.
Omar, who introduced in July a “pro-boycott” resolution, was the only Democrat who voted against that bill.
In an op-ed she published last week in The Washington Post, Omar laid out her reasons for opposing new sanctions against Turkey.
“This is an unmistakable echo of the failed US strategy of ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran and Venezuela,” she wrote. “And just as with those two countries, it would be a humanitarian and geopolitical disaster. Too often, sanctions [against] regimes are ill-considered, incoherent and counterproductive. Economic and sector sanctions are too often designed to inflict maximum pain on civilians, not empower them.”
She went on to say that, “questioning and changing the near-automatic reliance on sanctions is fully compatible with advancing our interests and defending national security. It’s time to stop relying on the same failed playbook.”
Republicans and Democrats alike supported the legislation and expressed satisfaction over its passage.
Wyoming Rep. and House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney said that she was proud to work with her colleagues to strengthen the sanctions, and to vote for the legislation.
“President Erdogan’s offensive into northern Syria left many innocent civilians displaced or dead, resulted in the release of ISIS fighters, and strengthened Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” she added in a statement. “The tough sanctions approved by the House today punish Erdogan for his violence against our Kurdish allies in northern Syria, who helped us destroy ISIS’s territorial caliphate. America must stand with its Kurdish partners; whose counterterrorism cooperation was critical in our special operators’ courageous raid against Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi near the Turkish border.”
Rep. Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called president Erdogan of Turkey “an authoritarian thug,” and added that the US needs to pressure him “while ramping up diplomacy in the hopes of getting Turkey back on the right track as a NATO ally.”
“These sanctions are specifically designed to target the Turkish officials and institutions responsible for the bloodshed in Syria without senselessly hurting the Turkish people,” he added. “After all, it is Erdogan – not the Turkish people – that is responsible for this horror.”
The leadership of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) welcomed the vote, and called the Senate to advance similar legislation.
“We are very pleased the House of Representatives has passed legislation sanctioning Turkey for its invasion of Syria,” CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee said in a press release. “Despite being a member of NATO, Turkey aligns itself with our adversaries, makes common cause with terrorist organizations, and attacks our allies. Put simply, the Erdogan regime is no ally at all and should be treated as such. These sanctions are a good step. Now it is time for the Senate to act.”
Omar also voted “present” on H.R. 296, “Affirming the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide.” Some 405 congresspeople supported that resolution, 11 voted against, and three voted “present.”
The resolution states that it is US policy to commemorate the Armenian Genocide: the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923; rejects efforts to associate the US government with efforts to deny the existence of the Armenian Genocide or any genocide; and encourages education and public understanding about the Armenian Genocide.
“I believe accountability for human rights violations – especially ethnic cleansing and genocide – is paramount,” she explained in a statement following her vote. “But accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as a cudgel in a political fight. It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics. A true acknowledgment of historical crimes against humanity must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American Genocide, which took the lives of hundreds of millions of indigenous people in this country.”