Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the Iran-backed Hamas attack on Israel was “personal” to him, referencing his time serving in the U.S. military in Iraq.
During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday, DeSantis referenced his time deployed with the U.S. Navy in Iraq, during the 2007 troop surge.
“Most of the casualties U.S. troops were suffering were at the hands of Iranian-backed Shia militias. They killed hundreds of our troops in Iraq, probably over 1,000,” DeSantis said. “So Iran has a lot of American blood on its hands.”
DeSantis served as a legal adviser for a SEAL commander. After his service in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
DeSantis called for sanctions on Iran, saying the U.S. should “turn every screw” so Iran “is not getting any money flowing into its coffers.”
The Biden administration recently freed $6 billion in blocked Iranian funds in exchange for the release of American hostages. White House officials have said the money given to Iran “has yet to be spent by Iran and can only be used for humanitarian needs,” AP reported. But critics, including many Republicans, have noted that money is fungible, and the deal frees up Iran to spend other funds on terror campaigns.
“I think Biden’s administration thought that there could be a rapprochement here,” DeSantis said. “They eased off on some of the sanctions. There’s been a lot of discussion on the $6 billion; I think that was a mistake, but they’ve been getting a lot of money leading up to this.”
An Israeli embassy spokesperson said Monday that Israeli casualties have surpassed 900, with another 2,500 wounded. Palestinian officials say over 800 Palestinians have been killed and another 4,250 have been injured. Over 150 Israeli civilians have been taken hostage into Gaza.
President Joe Biden confirmed that at least 11 U.S. citizens were killed in Israel.
DeSantis’ comments are the latest in a string of statements from Republican presidential candidates about the Israel-Hamas war. In recent days, both DeSantis and former President Donald Trump have used the war to push their immigration policies, claiming that the U.S. should respond by increasing security along the southern border with Mexico.
DeSantis has claimed that increased border security would “ensure we are in a position to better protect Americans here at home from these real threats.” Trump has claimed that the “same people that attacked Israel” are crossing the U.S. southern border from Mexico.
While U.S. border agents have apprehended an increasing number of individuals on the FBI’s terror watch list this fiscal year, the data are largely commensurate with the uptick in total border crossings. No evidence exists of Hamas terrorists who participated in last week’s attack on Israel crossing the southern border of the U.S.