Omar offers joint resolution to block $650M weapons sale to Saudis

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speaks to reporters following a photo op on the House Steps on Monday, September 27, 2021.
Greg Nash

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Friday introduced a joint resolution aimed at blocking a $650 million U.S. weapons contract to Saudi Arabia authorized by the Biden administration. 

The Minnesota lawmaker said she introduced the resolution in opposition to Riyadh’s offensive operations in Yemen’s civil war and crackdown on dissidents at home and abroad. 

“It is simply unconscionable to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia while they continue to slaughter innocent people and starve millions in Yemen, kill and torture dissidents, and support modern-day slavery,” Omar said in a statement.

“We should never be selling human rights abusers weapons, but we certainly should not be doing so in the midst of a humanitarian crisis they are responsible for. Congress has the authority to stop these sales, and we must exercise that power.” 

President Biden ended U.S. support for Saudi-led operations in Yemen’s civil war but has come under criticism from Democrats and human rights advocates for failing to impose more costs on Riyadh for human rights abuses in the kingdom, including holding back on actions against the kingdom’s day-to-day leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, over the October 2018 killing of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The resolution would require approval by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate. 

The resolution was welcomed by the group Democracy for the Arab World Now, the organization founded by Khashoggi before he was killed. 

“The United States should not sell any weapons to Saudi Arabia or other abusive governments, period. Congress should block this and similar deals in the future,“ Raed Jarrar, DAWN’S advocacy director, said in a statement. 

The Biden administration, which has imposed sanctions on key Saudi officials related to the Khashoggi killing and has instituted visa bans, has described relations between Washington and Riyadh as vital.

The $650 million weapons sale approved last week is expected to include 280 missiles and 596 LAU-128 Missile Rail Launchers, along with containers and support equipment, spare parts, U.S. government and contractor engineering, and a variety of support services, according to a statement released by the State Department at the time.

Omar, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, responded to the weapons sale announcement last week by reintroducing the Arms Sale Oversight Act, an effort to exercise more control from the House over proposed arms sales. 

The bill was reintroduced with support from Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.).

Tags Ilhan Omar Joe Biden Saudi Arabia Ted Lieu

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