Saudi Arabia has been one of America’s closest Middle East allies ever since King Abdul Aziz met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt on a US warship moored near Cairo in February, 1945. Despite very different in terms of culture, the two leaders got along famously.
Although there have been strains in the US-Saudi relationship over the decades, they’ve been successfully overcome and the two nations currently cooperate in the battle to eradicate terrorism.
The Kingdom and the US have long enjoyed a mutually beneficial alliance based on mutual respect and the coincidence of interests. Saudi and American military personnel worked together to evict Saddam’s occupation forces from Kuwait and they cooperate within ‘a joint planning cell’ in defense of the legitimate president of Yemen. Moreover, they share the same vision of post-war Syria cleansed of the so-called Daesh and free from the Assad regime’s boot.
Upon the passing of the late King Abdullah, President Obama stressed the importance “of the US-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond,” which didn’t exactly gel with his stated irritation “that foreign policy orthodoxy compels him to treat Saudi Arabia as an ally,” as reported by Jeffrey Goldberg writing in The Atlantic.
Worse, he referred to Middle East and European allies as “free riders” meriting a strong riposte by Prince Turki Al-Faisal who wrote in this newspaper “Mr. Obama, we are not ‘free riders’.”
The fact that good relations survived even after the Obama administration legitimized, enriched and emboldened the Islamic Republic of Iran, thus arranging the region’s geopolitical deckchairs, is a testament to its fundamental strength.
However, the question now remains whether the rope that binds will fray to the extent of breaking point now that Congress has almost unanimously signed-off on a bill permitting the families of 9-11 victims to sue the Saudi government for damages in connection with that terrible day that changed our world in so many ways.
Clearly, lawmakers considered their vote to be a reelection necessity; they don’t dare do anything which can be interpreted as thwarting victims’ loved-ones, who, by the way, have already received between $250,000-$7.5 million depending on the financial capacity and income of the lost breadwinners.
Given that the Saudi state was vindicated within the official 9-11 Commission report from having any part in the attacks on US soil, whether or not President Obama carries out his threat to veto any such law, the vote will be seen as made with hostile intent.
Adding coals to the fire, both presidential front-runners, Clinton and Trump, have given their support to the bill so even were Obama’s veto not overturned by two-thirds of Congressional members, whoever wins the White House would have the power to quash that executive veto.
In effect, Congress sold out a US ally to curry favor with voters, which is not only a despicable betrayal but it also sets a precedent for the families of civilians killed by the US during its serial Middle East invasions and military interventions to seek reparations – or should do.
The problem is sovereign states are never held accountable for the actions of independent citizens abroad. If that were so, every country in the world would be deluged with law suits. The idea that a government can exercise control over every single member of its population is ridiculous. In this case, the Kingdom has been singled-out as an exception to the norm in what is a deviation from international law.
How Riyadh that’s heavily invested in the US to the tune of many hundreds of billions ($750 billion by some estimates) will respond if and when this scurrilous bill is passed into law is yet to be seen. In light of the fact that most judges will undoubtedly be predisposed to rule in favor of 9-11 families, I have just one piece of advice for what it’s worth.
Dispose of Saudi assets and get the money out now! I wonder just how many senators and representatives will be patting each other on the back then! Perhaps it’s time for Saudi authorities to mull over the old saying ‘With friends like these, who needs enemies!”