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Ilhan Omar urges Biden to reverse Trump's Middle East deals

Congresswoman says Trump presented arms deals as peace moves, sought military alliance against Iran, ignored Gulf allies' abuses in Yemen and Libya
'Instead of siding with one group of dictators over another, we should position ourselves at an equal distance from both, says Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (AFP)

US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has accused the Donald Trump administration of using normalisation deals brokered in the Middle East to "disguise arms sale deals to human rights abusers".

Writing in American weekly The Nation, Omar said President-elect Joe Biden "has a tremendous opportunity to reverse" the deals and to avoid taking sides in a regional struggle between Iran and its rivals.

"Instead of siding with one group of dictators over another, 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," she wrote. 

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In the run-up to November's presidential election, Trump's administration secured a series of deals that allowed Israel to normalise relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. 

Omar pointed out that after the UAE's deal with Israel, the Trump administration proposed selling $23bn of arms to the UAE, including the coveted F-35 fighter jets.

She accused Trump of trying to form a military alliance against Iran while ignoring Saudi abuses in Yemen, the UAE's role in the Libyan civil war and Bahrain's suppression of opposition voices.

"What do these agreements mean to the millions of Palestinians who continue to live under Israeli military occupation?" she said. "Rather than make statehood or self-determination more likely, they have normalised the occupation and made real peace for Israelis and Palestinians increasingly unlikely."

Two-state solution

She continued: "Ignoring the suffering of the Palestinians runs counter to our most basic values … we must reinsert the call for a two-state solution with full human rights and self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians back into the public debate with urgency."

Biden supported the UAE's normalisation deal when it was announced in September, calling it "a historic step to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East".

'Ignoring the suffering of the Palestinians runs counter to our most basic values'

- Congresswoman Ilhan Omar

Trump's victory in 2016 was celebrated in Israel, especially among the right wing and residents of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, who felt he would side with them in the conflict. 

He has since been accused of undermining the potential for a two-state solution, which had previously been key to US policy towards the conflict, especially by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, effectively recognising the disputed city as Israel's capital. 

He had insisted he would push through a peace agreement as president, which became known as the "deal of the century", but his plans fell flat. 

Trump's secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has been on a farewell tour and broke custom by becoming the first US secretary of state to officially visit an Israeli settlement, as well as visiting the Golan Heights, which Israel annexed from Syria. 

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He has also visited the UAE and will end his tour in Saudi Arabia.

Despite losing the election (though he has not yet conceded), Trump has remained active on foreign policy ahead of the expected handover of power and has reportedly considered strikes against Iran.

Trump shook up relations with Iran by withdrawing from the nuclear deal struck under his predecessor, Barack Obama, to limit Iran's nuclear activity, and slapped crippling sanctions onto the country. 

Biden has said he will reopen diplomatic channels with Iran and rejoin the nuclear deal if Iran resumes abiding by its requirements, which it started to breach after Trump's withdrawal.