Global Independent Analytics

Saudi Arabia Warns of Economic Fallout if Congress Passes 9/11 Bill

Saudi Arabia threatens to sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets if the bill passes

Mark Mazzetti for The New York Times reports: The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the passage of the bill, which would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. According to administration officials and congressional aides from both parties, and the Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon. The officials have warned senators of diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.

The Saudi foreign minister in response to the bill delivered a statement threatening to sell out their treasury securities and assets located in America before they are suspended by courts. However, several economic analysts say that this measure is rather unlikely because it would be both difficult to proceed with and eventually cripple the kingdom’s economy.Moreover, it might destabilize the American dollar – the currency to which the Saudi riyal is pegged. Nevertheless, the threat might indicate growing tensions in U.S.-Saudi Arabia relations.

Mazzetti continues: “The administration, which argues that the legislation would put Americans at legal risk overseas, has been lobbying so intently against the bill that some lawmakers and families of Sept. 11 victims are infuriated. In their view, the Obama administration has consistently sided with the kingdom and has thwarted their efforts to learn what they believe to be the truth about the role some Saudi officials played in the terrorist plot.

“It’s stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens,” said Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and who is part of a group of victims’ family members pushing for the legislation.”

Although there has not been a clear evidence of Saudi’s connection to the terror attacks, some critics have mentioned that that the commission’s narrow wording left open the possibility that less senior officials or parts of the Saudi government could have played a role. The suspicions, contained in 28 pages of the report, still have not been released publicly.

The argument, rather unusual to occur during an election year, came as criticism emerged over the growing U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia, whose relations have frayed recently. The controversial bill came after two senators introduced a resolution that would put restrictions on American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which have expanded during the Obama administration. If accepted, the legislation would deprive international governments of their immunity from lawsuits in American courts if the nation is charged with terrorism. If the bill were to be signed by the president, it could make a path for the role of the Saudi government to be examined in the Sept. 11 lawsuits.

The administration argues that if the bill is not implemented, the American government and its citizens might be at legal risk abroad because other nations might retaliate with their legislation. Secretary of State John Kerry claimed, “expose the United States of America to lawsuits and take away our sovereign immunity and create a terrible precedent.” However, the bill’s sponsors argue that the legislation has a sole purpose of preventing attacks on American soil without other nations fighting back. John Kirby, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement that the administration stands by the victims of terrorism, “especially those who suffered and sacrificed so much on 9/11.”

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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