Though many are focusing on one of Obama's most embarrassing moments as president, the threat of Saudi retaliation for the bill's passage is being overlooked.
Late last Friday, Barack Obama took the side of the Saudis when he vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), more commonly known as the “9/11” bill. The bill grants Americans the ability to sue Saudia Arabia as well as other nations with links to terror attacks on US soil. The bill had passed unanimously through both the House and the Senate. Obama strongly opposes the legislation on the grounds that it would “undermine” sovereign immunity and expose US diplomats and military to legal action abroad, especially if other nations pass similar laws. Considering that the US government and US corporations have and continue to sponsor terrorism in many parts of the world, his concern of this bill coming back to bite the US is understandable but hardly justifiable.
Yet, Obama was likely more concerned with angering Saudi Arabia, a notorious US ally which has lobbied heavily against the bill. Other mega-corporations such as General Electric, Dow Chemical, and Boeing, also lobbied against the bill saying that it could pose financial risks to their business with the Saudi kingdom. It is interesting to note that all three of those corporations listed are heavily involved in the manufacture of weapons and have benefited handsomely from the $115 billion in weapons sold to Saudi Arabia by President Obama. Obama may also have been wary of angering the Saudis as they are also alleged to be a major sponsor of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, accounting for as much as 20% of her total donations, as well as one of the largest donors to the Clinton Foundation.
Congress, however, overrode Obama’s veto of JASTA with little conflict. The house easily obtained the two-thirds vote necessary to override, with 348 voting in favor and only 77 against. Even more surprising was the override vote in the Senate where the vote was nearly unanimous, with only Democratic Leader Harry Reid supporting the president’s veto. Though many Congressman came forward to explain the override as a victory for 9/11 victims and their families, it is highly likely that many were motivated by the looming November elections. Rejecting a bill supported by 9/11 victims and families could be hard to justify to voters. Obama was allegedly furious upon hearing of the override’s success and the US press secretary, Josh Earnest, called it “the single most embarrassing thing the United States Senate has done possibly since 1983.” Though many are focusing on the wide margin by which the override was passed as well as the president’s strong reaction, there is a crucial piece of information that most seem to be missing.
Earlier this year, in April, Saudi Arabia told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it would sell hundred of billions of dollars of American assets held by Saudi Arabia if JASTA passes. According to a New York Times article from April 15th :
“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.”
If the Saudis make good on their threat, they could easily crash the dollar and further unhinge an already-struggling global economy.Though Saudi Arabia hasn’t officially announced its plans following the bill’s override, prominent Saudis, such as Salman al-Dosary of the Al Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, have stated that retaliation is forthcoming. Economic retaliation is the most likely as the Saudi currency as well as its assets are sharply crashing. Though this has been largely blamed on the OPEC “deal,” the passage of JASTA is likely to further rattle the Saudi economy, which may force them to sell US treasuries regardless. Whatever happens, we’ll know soon enough.
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