U.S. bill to allow Saudis to be sued meets resistance

The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act introduced in the U.S. Senate would allow the possibility of lawsuits against any foreign nations found to be involved in funding a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

The text of the act explicitly mentioned the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The bill appears to target Saudi Arabia in particular, a feature that has angered the Saudis. Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Jubeir is said to have told the U.S. administration that if the bill was passed, Saudi Arabia would immediately sell $750 billion in US treasuries. This could cause interest rates to spike, damaging the US dollar and the U.S.economy.
Almost immediately, the White House was threatening to veto the bill and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina a co-sponsor of the bi-partisan bill put a hold on the bill saying that it could come back to bite us. The president arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday April 20 for a meeting with King Salman and officials.
The State Department and the White House warned that U.S. citizens abroad could face retaliatory lawsuits.The bill has brought Democratic Senator, Chuck Schumer, into conflict with the Obama administration. Schumer said: "If Saudi Arabia participated in terrorism, of course they should be able to be sued. This bill would allow a suit to go forward and victims of terrorism to go to court to determine if the Saudi government participated in terrorist acts. If the Saudis did, they should pay a price."Josh Earnest, the White House spokesperson, claimed the bill would jeopardize "international sovereignty" and would put the U.S. at risk should other countries adopt a similar law. He said it was difficult to imagine a scenario in which President Obama would sign the bill. The bill would prevent Saudi Arabia and other countries from invoking their sovereign immunity in federal courts.
The House is awaiting Senate action before it goes ahead with its own bill introduced by Peter King, a New York Republican. Paul Callan, a CNN legal analyst pointed out that the law could result in countries retaliating against U.S. drone attacks. Callan said: "Which is why for almost 200 years, international law has recognized this concept of sovereign immunity that countries shouldn't really allow individual courts to sue other countries. It shall be worked down as a matter of foreign relations."While Saudi Arabia has not been implicated in the 9/11 attacks, there have long been suspicions that the Saudi royal family were involved. These suspicions have even been increased by the failure so far for the Obama administration to release 28 pages of an investigation into foreign involvement in the attacks.
There is no similar resistance to allowing a suit against Iran to go forward for a terror attack on marine barracks in Beirut. The US Supreme court ruled that Iran must pay nearly $2 billion from frozen assets to more than 1,000 Americans. The ruling relates to a 1983 bombing of U.S. Marine barracks that killed 241 Marines, as well as other attacks. In 2012 Congress passed a law that directed assets of Iran's Markazi bank be turned over to the families who were suing. Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and the Obama administration as well supported the families in this case.


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