A prominent pro-Israel think tank accused Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) of being a foreign agent who shared state secrets with Iran. The wild accusation was provided without supporting evidence but linked to a story originally sourced from a news outlet owned by Saudi Arabia.
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is the think tank in question–a non-profit and officially non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C. whose donors are largely Republican billionaires. In 2015, FDD famously led the think tank world’s charge against then-president Barack Obama‘s game-changing Iran nuclear deal.
A review of FDD’s finances by liberal blog Think Progress determined:
Most of the major donors are active philanthropists to “pro-Israel” causes both in the U.S. and internationally. With the disclosure of its donor rolls, it becomes increasingly apparent that FDD’s advocacy of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East, its hawkish stance against Iran, and its defense of right-wing Israeli policy is consistent with its donors’ interests in “pro-Israel” advocacy.
Mortazavi, widely known as a well-respected foreign policy analyst, originally noted the FDD conspiracy theory on Friday afternoon.
“FDD is also pushing out unfounded conspiracies about [Ilhan Omar],” she tweeted. The original thread now leads to a broken link.
— Negar Mortazavi (@NegarMortazavi) November 29, 2019
According to Foreign Policy, the unverified allegations against Omar are contained in deposition testimony by a Canadian “businessman who has become a useful agent for powerful royal families on the Arabian Peninsula.”
That businessman, Alan Bender, recently testified that the dictatorship of Qatar had recruited various foreign agents including Rep. Omar and President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Per that report, the claims in the Bender deposition were originally shared via “the state-controlled Saudi news channel Al Arabiya, but it quickly spread through media outlets in the Middle East, as well as through right-wing U.S. blogs and news sites.”
The spurious charges were then cited through right-wing Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post. FDD’s since-deleted tweet linked to that article and repeated Bender’s claims without qualification.
Here’s a screenshot from before the post was memory-holed:
“Since the day she was elected, Saudi Arabian trolls and mouthpieces have targeted Omar with misinformation and conspiracy theories,” a spokesperson for the Minnesota progressive told the Jerusalim Post .
“The latest, outlandishly absurd story from a Saudi-funded media outlet is of course false and only the latest in that trend,” Omar’s spokesperson continued. “The only people Rep. Omar represents in Washington are the people of Minnesota’s 5th District. She will continue to speak out against human rights violations around the world–whether it is war crimes in Yemen or the caging of children at our border–regardless of who commits them.”
The fact-checking and rumor-busting website TruthOrFiction? recently debunked the claim, noting that Bender himself is closely tied to the Saudi Arabian government.
The claims against Omar are apparently old news in certain circles.
“Bad faith actors continue to spread false information about Ilhan Omar being run by Qatar,” noted conservative researcher Jordan Schachter. “It is 100% nonsense. Both she and Qatar have committed many misdeeds. The Qatar-Omar thing is dumb and it hurts real investigative reporting on the two entities.”
“I received this oppo over a year ago and investigated it,” Schachter said. “There’s nothing there. It’s part of the information wars between Qatar and its gulf adversaries. Don’t fall for this stupidity please.”
Law&Crime reached out to FDD for comment and clarification on this story, but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.
[image via Scott Heins/Getty Images]