Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel is a reminder of the threat Iran poses, Sen. Joni Ernst said Monday at an event on Capitol Hill.
Ernst, R-Iowa, speaking at a Heritage Foundation event called “Future of the U.S.-Israel Alliance at 75,” said the Biden administration’s appeasement of Iran led to the Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel by Hamas, in which the terrorist group killed some 1,400 civilians.
“It is very important we continue supporting Israel, now more than ever,” Ernst said, while explaining that this terrorist attack was different and more extreme that what the Jewish state has experienced before.
Ernst, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, was the first U.S. elected official on the ground in Israel after Hamas struck, killing and taking hostage Americans as well as Israelis.
The Iowa senator explained that she was just leaving Saudi Arabia when she heard about the attack, and temporarily was blocked from making a scheduled trip to Israel.
This attack wasn’t the routine kind in which a few rockets were lobbed at Israel from Gaza, she said, but “an all-out onslaught against Israel.”
Eventually, Ernst was allowed to enter Israel on Oct. 10.
The attacks by Hamas were “horrific,” she said, but what shouldn’t be lost in the aftermath is the need for the U.S. to address the threat of Iran.
“Not only do we need to continue to fund [the] defense of Israel, I would also say that we need to push much harder against Iran as well, because a lot of this is stemming directly out of Iran,” Ernst said.
The Iowa Republican spoke about what the Biden administration should be doing to address the Iran problem, drawing on her experience as a company commander in the Iraq War. (Ernst served in the Iowa Army National Guard from 1993 to 2015.)
“Our rules of engagement every time we went into Iraq is that if you are fired on, you fire back,” she said. “Why are we not doing that as the United States of America? Any time we have a terrorist group, a foreign entity, coming after our men and women, our American citizens, we need to retaliate.”
So far, 27 American citizens are known to have been killed in the Hamas attack. More are currently missing or taken hostage.
Ernst said that other countries and terrorist proxy groups understand that the U.S. will strike back when Americans are targeted. But, she said, the Biden White House is an administration of “appeasement.”
“They will do whatever they can not to get on the bad side of an authoritarian regime, not to get on the bad side of terrorists, heaven forbid,” she said. “We have seen this administration do everything they can to get a nuclear agreement with Iran, even going against the wishes of Congress.”
Ernst pointed to how the Biden administration recently unfroze $6 billion in Iranian assets, which she said she believes contributed to funding Hamas. Not only that, she said, but the administration also refuses to enforce economic sanctions against the Islamist regime that Congress put in place.
The Daily Signal’s Tyler O’Neil reported on how much money the Biden administration actually has funneled to Iran. After accounting for the myriad sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the Biden administration—affecting oil, petrochemicals, and other exports—the total amount it allowed to flow to the regime is close to $70 billion, O’Neil calculated.
Ernst said this huge amount of money goes to fund Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.
“We’ve seen this administration do everything they can to make life easier for the Iranian people, but essentially what they have done is make the mission of Hamas and those other terrorist organizations much easier,” Ernst said.
She later said that it is essential to continue supporting Israel, because that country is a lynchpin to creating stability in the Middle East, specifically in how Israel neutralizes Iran’s terrorist proxies.
It’s also essential, she said, to recruit the other nations that with Israel are parties to the Abraham Accords to keep the peace. Saudi Arabia also must be a part of this effort, she said.
“The one thing that Iran fears is peace,” Ernst said.
Tying together Israel and other nations in the region, she said, provides a stabilizing “force” against an aggressive Iran.
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