Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the 9/11 terror attacks.
Saudi Arabia is threatening to damage the US economy and destabilize the US Dollar if Congress pursues legislation which would enable it to examine the kingdom’s connection to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, which killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 others.
Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the 9/11 terror attacks, the New York Times reported Saturday.
Congress has been pushing to reveal details of the Saudi connection and support of the attacks, but the Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage, according to the report.
The Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon, who have warned senators of diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.
Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, delivered the kingdom’s message personally last month during a trip to Washington, telling lawmakers that Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts, the Times reported.
Several outside economists are skeptical that the Saudis will follow through, saying that such a sell-off would be difficult to execute and would end up crippling the kingdom’s economy.
President Obama will arrive in Riyadh on Wednesday for meetings with King Salman and other Saudi officials. It is unclear whether the dispute over the Sept. 11 legislation will be on the agenda for the talks.
Saudi officials have long denied that the kingdom had any role in the Sept. 11 plot, and the 9/11 Commission found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” But critics have noted 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. Suspicions have lingered, partly because of the conclusions of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the attacks that cited some evidence that Saudi officials living in the United States at the time had a hand in the plot.
Those conclusions, contained in 28 pages of the report, still have not been released publicly
Families of the Sept. 11 victims have used the courts to try to hold members of the Saudi royal family, Saudi banks and charities liable because of what the plaintiffs charged was Saudi financial support for terrorism. These efforts have largely been stymied, in part because of a 1976 law that gives foreign nations some immunity from lawsuits in American courts.
The bipartisan Senate bill is intended to make clear that the immunity given to foreign nations under the law should not apply in cases where nations are found culpable for terrorist attacks that kill Americans on United States soil. If the bill were to pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the president, it could clear a path for the role of the Saudi government to be examined in the Sept. 11 lawsuits.
Obama administration officials counter that weakening the sovereign immunity provisions would put the American government, along with its citizens and corporations, at legal risk abroad because other nations might retaliate with their own legislation.
The bill’s sponsors have said that the legislation is purposely drawn very narrowly — involving only attacks on American soil — to reduce the prospect that other nations might try to fight back.
The alliance with Saudi Arabia has frayed in recent years as the White House has tried to thaw ties with Iran — Saudi Arabia’s bitter enemy— in the midst of recriminations between American and Saudi officials about the role that both countries should play in the stability of the Middle East.