US Democrats divided over response to Ilhan Omar’s Israel remarks

Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota faces censure over her comments on Israel, but some Democrats have spoken out in her defense. (AFP)
Updated 06 March 2019

US Democrats divided over response to Ilhan Omar’s Israel remarks

  • Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota suggested Israel’s supporters are pushing US lawmakers to pledge allegiance to a foreign country
  • Text of resolution up in the air but Omar’s seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee could come under scrutiny

WASHINGTON: A meeting of House Democrats turned contentious Wednesday as some new members who helped deliver the House majority confronted leaders over a resolution implicitly rebuking Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota over her comments on Israel.
In the party’s weekly closed meeting, Democrats protested the way Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders tried to rush out a resolution this week responding to Omar’s latest remark about Israel. Omar last week suggested the Jewish state’s supporters are pushing lawmakers to pledge “allegiance” to a foreign country.
The draft of the resolution condemning bigotry has angered Omar’s fellow freshmen and their progressive supporters. Pelosi had already said the measure would be broadened to decry anti-Muslim bias. But that didn’t quiet the ranks, and the party’s first major dissension broke out in an uncomfortable confrontation, according to three officials familiar with the episode.
Rep. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut complained that Pelosi left Democrats out of the loop on the resolution’s details.
“My comments were about the process we are using when concerns arise,” Hayes said in a statement. “As a member of Congress I should not get important information from cable news.”
Two knowledgeable people said Hayes was engaged in conversation with a colleague when Pelosi asked Hayes a question. The congresswoman did not respond because she did not hear the speaker address her, these people say. Most lawmakers had left the room at the time.
A senior Democratic aide said Pelosi acknowledged the issues and said the resolution was not final. One person in the room quoted the speaker as saying the leaders had tried to increase communication so that members stay united and have “a clearer understanding of what our purpose is as a caucus, how we proceed.”
Some Democrats hugged Omar during the meeting, according to other officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The text of the resolution remains up in the air, as Democrats are still debating what it will say, whether it will name Omar and whether she will be permitted to keep her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
There was clear dissention among the Democrats on whether a resolution condemning anti-Semitism was even necessary, given that the House voted on a similar measure already.
“I’m not sure we need to continue to do this every single time,” said Rep. Primayla Jayapal, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
The upheaval was a striking change from the heady first days of Democratic control, which installed Pelosi as speaker for the second time. Omar is among the most prominent freshman, as evidence by her appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone’s March issue with Pelosi, Hayes and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The resolution has created friction between Pelosi and all three of the women in the photo.
Omar, one of two Muslim women in Congress, has declined to comment, but a series of remarks about US-Israel policy have forced the Democrats to respond. Pelosi, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and other Democrats condemned Omar’s remarks about divided loyalties. She did not apologize.


IAEA urges Iran to explain uranium particles at undeclared site

Updated 21 November 2019

IAEA urges Iran to explain uranium particles at undeclared site

  • IAEA said in a report last week that its inspectors had "detected natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at a location in Iran

VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog on Thursday urged Iran to explain the presence of uranium particles at an undeclared site, as a landmark deal aimed at curbing Tehran's atomic activities threatens to collapse.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report made public last week that its inspectors had "detected natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at a location in Iran not declared to the agency".
The agency's acting head Cornel Feruta said IAEA and Iranian officials would meet in Tehran next week to discuss the matter, adding that the UN body had not received any additional information.
"The matter remains unresolved... It is essential that Iran works with the agency to resolve this matter promptly," he told IAEA member states at a meeting of the agency's board of governors.
A diplomatic source told AFP that the IAEA would send a high-ranking technical delegation to Iran next week.
The particles are understood to be the product of uranium which has been mined and undergone initial processing, but not enriched.
While the IAEA has not named the site in question, diplomatic sources have previously said the agency asked Iran about a site in the Turquzabad district of Tehran where Israel has alleged secret atomic activity in the past.
Sources say the IAEA took samples from the site in the spring and that Iran has been slow in providing answers to explain the test results.
The 2015 deal between Iran and world powers has been faltering since last year when the United States pulled out and started to reinstate punishing sanctions on Tehran, leaving the other signatories struggling to salvage the agreement.
Over the past few months, Iran has breached several parts of the deal it signed with the US as well as Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, in which it committed to scaling back its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
But Britain, France and Germany have said they are extremely concerned by Iran's actions in stepping up its uranium enrichment and other breaches.
Enrichment is the process that produces fuel for nuclear power plants but also, in highly extended form, the fissile core for a warhead.
On Monday, the IAEA confirmed Iran's stock of heavy water for reactors has surpassed the 130-tonne limit set under the agreement.
Heavy water is not itself radioactive but is used in nuclear reactors to absorb neutrons from nuclear fission.
Heavy water reactors can be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons as an alternative to enriched uranium.
The IAEA has also said one of its inspectors was briefly prevented from leaving Iran, calling her treatment "not acceptable".
Iran has cancelled the inspector's accreditation, saying she triggered a security check at the entrance gate to the Natanz enrichment plant last month.
The IAEA has disputed the Iranian account of the incident, without going into details.