On May, the Congress passed a bill that would permit survivors and families of the victims on 9/11 to seek monetary reparations against Saudi Arabia, using the premise that the country has ties to terrorism. On Friday, the bill was sent to the White House, where many believe President Obama will shut it down.
The Congress claimed the bill was a “moral imperative” that was necessary so the survivors and the victim’s families could “seek justice.” The decision was taken days before the fifteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. However, many believe that the White House will veto the bill, under the argument that it will probably damage the diplomatic relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
The fight for the right to sue
Those who have begged and fought for years for the passing of the bill are now worried President Obama will shut it down. However, they argue there are enough people interested in making a successful override vote against the Executive’s pocket veto.
Terry Strada is one of these people. Her husband died in the attack, and since then she has campaigned extensively for a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, even founding the 9/11 Families United For Justice Against Terrorism organization.
Right now, she is worried the highly controversial presidential campaign could distract from the bill.
“This is more important than campaigning. You can campaign after; you will never have a chance to pass [the bill] again. This is the priority” pleaded Strada.
Whatever Obama chooses, he won’t win
President Obama is in a dilemma. Administration officials and many others have been campaigning for vetoing the bill since it could carry repercussions to officials living outside the US borders.
However, in the midst of the attack’s anniversary and the highly emotional presidential campaign, this would signify a terrible political move when the Election Day is so close.
At the same time, a “pocket veto”, which just means delaying the bill’s signing until is too late, could prevent some of the political drama, but would still be controversial, and something the bill supporters would fight.
In a related case, a group of both democrats and republican senators announced recently that they will fight to block a proposed sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia worth more than one billion dollars made by the Obama’s administration.
A controversial bill
The passing of the bill will permit US courts to accept claims against Saudi Arabia, actually ignoring foreign sovereign immunity, only in terrorist cases.
Josh Earnest, a White House Spokesman, has stated that Obama’s administration “strongly continues to oppose this legislation, and, you know, we’ll obviously begin conversations with the House about it.”
Bill’s supporters have said that US officials abroad should have nothing to fear because the countries that “have done nothing wrong” should have anything “to worry about.”
After the bill had been passed with unanimous consent, the current administration disclosed twenty-eight pages from a 2002 congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks. In these documents, there was nothing that suggested a connection between Saudi Arabia and the terrorist attacks.
Nonetheless, this sparked the attention of many, especially victims’ families, who now want to use the judiciary as a tool for further inspection on the allegedly Al Qaeda-Saudi Arabia link.
Now that the Congress sent Obama the bill, he has ten days to veto the bill before it becomes law. However, there is always the possibility of doing the pocket veto. This last resort could be fought. However, the Congress will probably disband by next week so it can focus on the final steps of the presidential election race, which could mean the end of the bill.
Strada has stated that she doesn’t believe “they’re going to let us down. I don’t think they would have done all this work, just to let it fall apart at the end.”
Saudi Arabia responds
The Saudi government has denied any connection with the 9/11 attack. Last month, the Salman bin Abdulaziz’s administration threatened to sell US investments.
These investments together sum up $116.8 billion in US Treasury securities, which makes Saudi Arabia the thirteenth largest holder of the American debt in the world.
According to some US officials, the Saudi government is bluffing, since they are not going to risk a financial loss “to try to make a point.” However, Saudi officials have replied that they are neither bluffing nor threatening, but merely doing what anybody would do “to protect their interests.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir reunited on Monday with Secretary of State of John Kerry in Geneva. After the meeting, Al-Jubeir claimed that “you can warn. What has happened is that people are saying we threatened. We said that a law like this is going to cause investor confidence to shrink. And so not just for Saudi Arabia, but for everybody.”
Sources: The Washington Post