If the new normal in politics plays out as it has between President Barack Obama and the Republican-dominated Congress, people should brace themselves for Saudi Arabia to sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets in the U.S.
It’s that Middle East country’s holdings that could be in jeopardy if Congress passes a bill that would enable the Saudi government to be deemed liable in U.S. courts for any part in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Obama administration has a full-court lobbying press on lawmakers to keep the bill from passing.
Obama, however, has faced a House and Senate — each with a Republican majority — that consistently have done the exact opposite of what the president wants. Executive action and Obama’s vetoes have enabled the commander in chief to get somethings accomplished during his eight years in office.
Obama may have picked a no-win fight. Who could deny families of 911 victims any efforts on their part for closure and justice in the personal devastating losses they incurred? The country the last 15 years has been on their side.
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But if Obama loses this battle, it could have far-reaching and devastating effects on the U.S. and world economies. It also could jeopardize U.S. and Middle East relations particularly in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
The U.S. desperately needs the Saudi’s involvement in that fight.
One also has to wonder whether Saudi Arabia’s acceptance of nine Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo Bay was tied to the Obama administration lobbying Congress against the legislation. The Pentagon made the announcement Saturday, reducing the Guantanamo detainee population to 80.
None of the detainees released to Saudi Arabia had been charged, and all but once had been cleared for release since at least 2010. The one was not approved by a review board for release until last year, The Associated Press reports.
Families of 911 victims are terribly upset with the president over his actions, which benefit the Saudis. The Obama administration has gotten in the way of efforts by the families of 911 victims to determine whether any Saudi officials played roles in the disaster, The New York Times reports.
The Saudis deny any involvement.
However, the conclusions of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the attacks cited some evidence that Saudi officials in the U.S. at the time had some involvement. Conclusions in 28 pages of that report still have not been made public.
That raises a lot of suspicions and speculation.
Families of 911 victims have turned to the courts to try to determine the Saudis’ role in financially supporting terrorism. But such efforts have been largely blocked partly by a 1976 law that gives foreign nations some immunity from suits in U.S. courts.
The Senate bill would strip the immunity from countries found to be involved in terrorism that kills Americans on U.S. soil. The bill is sponsored by Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.
If the bill passed, it could enable families in lawsuits to go after the Saudi government.
Obama’s opposition in part is because it would put the U.S., its citizens and corporations in jeopardy abroad because other countries might retaliate with similar legislation.
But who could deny the 911 families closure and their right to justice? It has been a nearly 15-year quest — and still counting — for them.