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A 6 Point Rationale For Why US Congressmen Would Want to Sue The Saudies

Soon we will see Saudi princes travelling to Moscow en masse

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The author is a columnist at an influential Russian International Affairs monthly.

Last week, both chambers of the US Congress voted overwhelmingly for a law that will allow families of September 11 victims to demand compensation from the Saudis.

The law allows the families of the almost 3,000 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to file lawsuits against Saudi Arabia as a “sponsor of terrorism”.

Barack Obama had vetoed the bill, claiming there was “no need to quarrel with the US’s closest ally in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia.” But Congress overrode the veto.

In less than 24 hours, a first lawsuit “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” was filed in a US court. The amount claimed has not been disclosed.

The consequences of the Congressional decision to defy the President, could be varied.

First, it could result in a complete rethink of political relations between Washington and Riyadh, which would not be good for either side. In any case, the decision will have to take into account “the voice of the people” from the Capitol, aside from judicial decisions. Consider the statement by the Foreign Ministry of Saudi Arabia, when the voting was taking place. He said: “We call upon Congress to take all necessary measures to prevent catastrophic consequences”. Congress ignored the warning.

Second, after the vote, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs described these possible consequences: “The erosion of the principle of sovereign immunity, which has governed international relations for hundreds of years, will have a negative impact. It added that the US Congress undermined all these principles, and that the law creates a “dangerous precedent” that will provoke the “erosion of national sovereignty in all countries, including (sic!) the US.”

Congress doesn’t seem to realize what a Pandora’s Box they opened. From now on, we can expect an avalanche of lawsuits against the US in the courts of different countries – from Korea and Vietnam to Libya and the former Yugoslavia, where the American Army killed local populations and destroyed infrastructure.

Third, in the midst of the Syrian war, the deterioration of political relations between the US and Saudi Arabia severely weakens the US position both in this conflict and in the region in general.

Fourth, as security in a lawsuit, a US court could easily confiscate Saudi Arabian assets in the US. According to various estimates, they amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. As a result, the US financial system would gain control of these funds, a common strategy. The fact is that they never returned the $210 billion belonging to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya that they froze, and they do not plan to. The Saudis could find themselves in the same situation by the decision of a US court: “What’s ours is ours and what’s yours is ours too.”  

Fifth, right after the publication of the classified part of the 9/11 Commission Report, the Saudi authorities threatened to sell American securities worth $750 billion in retaliation. Now the time has come. Despite the skepticism of some experts, who say that currently $750 billion can only be sold at a deep discount– let us say, for $300 billion – the very fact that Saudi Arabia is saying goodbye to US treasuries could have unpredictable consequences on an already fragile international financial market.   

Sixth, US congressmen showed that it was more important for them to pocket another trillion dollars than to preserve strategic relations with a US key Middle East ally, even in the midst of the Syrian campaign. As for the lawsuits against the US, according to Obama, Congress seems oblivious. After all, they are “special”…

From all the above, we can conclude that Congress is much more concerned about US financial prospects  than about breaking off relations with Saudi Arabia after being present in the Persian Gulf for almost half a century. They are more concerned about cold, hard  cash “taken from the Saudis in a relatively fair and legal way” than oil supplies.

This is how, by a decision of Congress, a whole epoch of-Saudi-American relations, and, to a certain extent, relations between the US and the Middle East, were reformated.

We can expect that in the near future a high-ranking official from the kingdom will pay a visit to Moscow, even as the Russians increase their military presence in Syria.

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