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Incoming Foreign Affairs chair Meeks says US must lead by 'humble example'

Incoming Foreign Affairs chair Meeks says US must lead by 'humble example'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksHouse votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers Fresh hurdles push timeline on getting China bill to Biden White House pressed on evacuating Afghan allies as time runs out MORE (D-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the U.S. must lead by “humble example” in confronting global challenges and reasserting the American presence on the world stage. 

Meeks, who was elected in a caucuswide vote Thursday to chair the committee beginning in January, will be the first African American to lead the influential panel, charged with oversight of the State Department and U.S. foreign policy. 

In a statement released Thursday night, the New York lawmaker laid out his vision for the committee and foreign policy priorities for the next Congress, calling for a shift from the Trump administration’s “America first” foreign policy to “America forward” in reasserting the U.S. position on the global stage. 

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“The committee under the next Congress will preside over an historic shift in US foreign policy, and there is no shortage of work ahead of us. Not only will we need to re-engage with a world that has felt the marked absence of US global leadership, but we must also rethink traditional approaches to foreign policy,” he said in the statement

“This will not be a return to normal, but a leap towards a new way of doing business,” he said.

Meeks, a senior member of the panel who has served for more than two decades in Congress, said lawmakers must tighten the scope of the authorization for use of military force, a piece of legislation that gives broad authority to the executive branch to launch military action and has raised fears in Congress over its possible use to justify a strike on Iran during the Trump administration. 

The risk of military confrontation between the U.S. and Iran is high following the killing last week of a top Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Iran has blamed Israel for the killing, and claims that President TrumpDonald TrumpGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE pulled back from green lighting a U.S. military strike in Iran. 

The U.S. is also temporarily withdrawing some of its staff from the American Embassy in Baghdad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said on Thursday. The move comes ahead of the first anniversary of the U.S. drone strike attack that killed Iran’s top military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani outside Baghdad’s airport.

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The killing led to an escalation of attacks on U.S. forces by Iranian-back Shia militias in the country.  

Meeks, in his statement, emphasized the importance of standing with U.S. allies in confronting global challenges like Iran, putting his support behind President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBaltimore police chief calls for more 'boots on the ground' to handle crime wave Biden to deliver remarks at Sen. John Warner's funeral Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump MORE’s push to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Meeks also expressed his support of the U.S. rejoining the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA in 2018 and gave formal notice of withdrawal from the WHO in July, but that withdrawal will not take effect until July.

“Our challenges before us are global in scale, and it will require global cooperation, spearheaded by American leadership. I am eager to begin work with my colleagues on the committee, and look forward to working with the new Biden-Harris administration on the tasks ahead of us,” he said.

Meeks also said that America must push further on the fight for human rights across the world.

“We must lead by humble example with the weight of US moral credibility,” he said.

U.S. adversaries such as China and Russia have sought to deflect criticism of their own human rights abuses by pointing out America’s reckoning with racial injustice and, in particular, the death of George Floyd. Floyd's death in late May sparked a social justice movement that resulted in continuing demonstrations across the country.  

The lawmaker also committed to pushing for greater diversity within the State Department and emphasized diplomacy over military action. 

“The Foreign Affairs Committee must take a leading role in how we rebuild the State Department. We will broaden the conversation, hearing testimony from organizations and non-traditional diplomats. We will press for greater diversity so our diplomatic corps looks more like the America it represents abroad, strengthening the initiatives that serve as a pipeline for diverse communities,” he said.