The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act has complicated the already strained relations between the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East. This may result in the development of close ties between Middle Eastern countries and other nations, Russia in particular.
The law allows families of victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to sue Saudi Arabia for alleged ties to the terrorists who hijacked the airplanes. It became law on Sept. 28 after Congress rejected the veto of President Barack Obama. Analyst Sergei Filatov explained six implications of this moment to the newspaper Izvestia.
The first possible consequence has to do with “the drastic change in political relations between Washington and Riyadh, which is not in their best interests. However, they will have to take into account the ‘vox populi’ on Capitol Hill (Congress) and the rules of that particular court.”
Second, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia has warned that “the erosion of sovereign immunity will have a negative impact on all nations, including the United States.” Anwar Gargash, minister of state for foreign affairs of the United Arab Emirates, echoed the concerns of the Saudis. He referred to the law as “a dangerous precedent in international law that undermines the principle of sovereign immunity and the future of sovereign investments in the United States.” “It seems that U.S. lawmakers have forgotten the fact that they opened a Pandora’s box. From this moment, they can expect an avalanche of judicial proceedings against the U.S. in other countries, including Korea, Vietnam, Libya and the former Yugoslavia, where the U.S. killed many and destroyed infrastructures,” Filatov said.
Third, the deteriorating relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia in the middle of a war in Syria “dramatically weakened Washington’s position in this conflict and the region,” noted the analyst.
The fourth consequence may relate to the freezing of Saudi assets in U.S. banks, estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars. According to Filatov, this strategy is not new. It has been used to freeze $210 billion of Libyan assets.
The fifth implication may involve the numerical value of the Saudi response – selling up to $750 billion of Saudi assets in the U.S. This step may cause “unpredictable consequences for the international financial market, which is already fragile,” the analyst added.
Finally, Congress has shown that it is more important to “pocket” an additional trillion than to preserve relations with strategic allies in the Middle East, Filatov said. That is, U.S. lawmakers are more focused on the financial situation than on their country’s position in the Middle East. If this happens, Saudi Arabia is likely to readjust its foreign policy. “In this context, we can expect that senior Saudi officials will visit Moscow, especially taking into account that Russia has increased its military presence in Syria,” Filatov concluded.