- Ilhan Omar, a first-year member of Congress, was chosen to sit on the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week.
- The committee oversees bills and investigations related to US foreign affairs, and has the power to boost or cut US exports of arms and technology to other states.
- Omar on Thursday said she wanted to “reign in arms sales to human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia.”
- President Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to do so, saying he didn’t want to jeopardize Saudi money coming into the US.
- Saudi-owned media has long attempted to tarnish Omar’s image with news articles accusing her of being a member of a secret Muslim Brotherhood or part of an Islamist faction attempting to control Congress in the past.
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the Muslim congresswoman who Saudi media tried to smear, has been chosen to sit on a powerful House committee that has a huge say in US foreign policy.
Omar confirmed her appointment to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a press statement on Thursday, adding: “We need to reign in arms sales to human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia.”
The committee oversees bills and investigations related to US foreign affairs, such as foreign aid and exports to other countries.
It also has to power to boost or limit US exports of military equipment and technology to other countries, including Saudi Arabia.
President Donald Trump’s administration has come under congressional pressure to condemn Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October. Riyadh has continually sought to distance its leadership from the murder.
Shortly after Khashoggi’s death, Omar also tweeted: “The Saudi government might have been strategic at covering up the daily atrocities carried out against minorities, women, activists and even the #YemenGenocide, but the murder of #JamaKhashoggi should be the last evil act they are allowed to commit.”
But Trump has repeatedly refused to jeopardize his relationship with the Saudi royal family, opting instead to tout the US and Saudi’s cosy relations, lucrative arms deals, and low oil prices.
Omar’s appointment to the Foreign Affairs Committee also comes after academics and media outlets connected to Saudi Arabia repeatedly tried to smear her even before she joined Congress.
Saudi-owned media outlets, such as Al Arabiya and the MBC radio station, reported stories accusing Omar of being a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood and part of an Islamist faction attempting to control Congress, Foreign Policy reported last month.
Riyadh likely launched this media campaign because Omar, as a Muslim woman, could challenge the US’ relationship with Saudi Arabia, HuffPost’s Akbar Shahid Ahmed reported.
Omar, who fled Somalia as a refugee in 1991, said in a Thursday statement: “As someone who has seen firsthand the havoc wreaked by war, I am proud to serve on the committee that is responsible for overseeing our country’s – and this President’s – actions abroad.”
“We need to use the committee’s human rights jurisdiction to hold the President accountable for deaths in detention centres on his watch. We need to investigate how foreign governments and their lobbyists have violated our laws,” she said.
It is rare for freshman representatives to join high-ranking congressional committees. New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also a first-year congresswoman, secured a spot on the powerful House Financial Services Committee this week.
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