GCC, Arab League blast US 9/11 lawsuit legislation
LONDON - The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League have thrown their support behind Saudi Arabia after the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow relatives of victims of the September 11th, 2001, attacks to sue the kingdom for compensation.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) would limit sovereign immunity of countries. The bill, which the House passed unanimously on a voice vote two days before the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the Pentagon, in Pennsylvania and New York, could result in the United States becoming vulnerable in courts around the world, the Obama administration said. The US Senate unanimously passed the measure in May.
US President Barack Obama has said he would veto the measure.
The Arab League denounced JASTA, with a statement by Secretary- General Ahmed Aboul Gheit saying: “This law is contrary to principles of the UN charter and the established rules of international law.” He said the bill was not based on international norms or principles of relations between states.
GCC Secretary-General Abdul Latif al-Zayani said the bill contradicted “the bases and principles of relations among countries, as well as the principle of sovereign immunity, a firm principle in the international laws and norms”, adding that “undermining this principle would inflict negative repercussion on relations between countries”.
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said: “This law is not equal with the foundations and principles of relations among states and represents a clear violation given its negative repercussions and dangerous precedents.”
Media in the GCC also came out swinging. “The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its people and society have become suspects without a crime, only on hypothetical grounds,” wrote Abdulaziz Sager, head of the Gulf Research Centre, in the Saudi daily Okaz, stressing that US investigations into the 9/11 attacks “did not find a shred of evidence showing that Saudi Arabia was directly or indirectly involved in the incident”.
“In case this bill was used to target Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s leadership would be obliged to reconsider the nature of its relation with the United States… All options will be available and the United States will not be immune from losses,” Sager added.
The lead editorial in UAE’s Al- Khaleej, titled US extortion, echoed similar sentiments, describing the legislation as “an attempt to politically and financially extort the Arab Gulf States, a breach of mutual relations among our countries and a violation of the most basic rules of international law.
“The United States practises blatant extortion, however, isn’t it time for Arab countries to take a clear and decisive stance to protect their interests from this tyranny that targets them?”
With a more aggressive defence of the kingdom, Saudi writer Mohannad Mubaidin wrote in Al-Yaum newspaper that Washington was responsible for “the on-going war in Afghanistan, destroying, occupying and undermining Iraq as well as all crises and open wars in Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, Yemen and Libya” ，stressing that Washington “will continue to exploit the September 11th [attacks] as an excuse against Islam and the Arabs”.
The Saudi government had warned that if the legislation were enacted, it would sell its US investments. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused the US Congress of “stripping the principle of sovereign immunity, which would turn the world for international law into the law of the jungle”.
In July, the missing 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report were declassified. “The conclusion of the 9/11 Commission is — or was, as they wrote — they found ‘no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded al-Qaeda’,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said upon the documents’ release.
Chairman of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, and Vice- Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-California, urged the public to read the results of follow-up investigations by the CIA and the FBI as they debunked conspiracy theories and unfounded allegations.
Despite Riyadh and Washington working closely on numerous regional issues, including the war Syria and the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda, Saudi-US relations during the Obama administration seriously stumbled over the US attitude towards Iran.
Riyadh and other GCC capitals have viewed Washington as bolstering Tehran and enabling it to increase its destabilising activities in the region, especially after sanctions were lifted as a part of the Iranian nuclear deal.
Saudi Arabia, which has maintained strong ties with both main political parties in the United States, is said to remain optimistic about the future.