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US, Saudi Arabia lock horns over 9/11 bill

17 Apr 2016 | By Achin Garg

Saudi Arabia has warned the US of adverse economic implications, if the US passes a bill that allows Saudi Arabia to be held responsible to American courts for any role in the 11th Sept'01 attack.

The Obama administration, however, is intensely lobbying in Congress against the bill.

The bill can have severe economic and diplomatic repercussions, adversely affecting relations between the two nations.

In context: The 9/11 Bill and its fallout

Introduction US-Saudi Arabia relations

Establishment of US-Saudi Arabia diplomatic relations began in 1933 with the opening of embassies in both countries.

The two countries had strong relations despite political differences, Saudi being the ultra-conservative Islamic monarchy and the US being a secular democratic republic.

The Saudi kingdom, which buys arms from the US in return for oil, had been a close ally of the US in West Asia.

Recent issues in relations

While there have been differences in the relations between the US and the Saudi over the Israel-Palestine issue, the cracks have widened lately over the US's response to the Arab spring, nuclear negotiations with Iran, etc.
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11 Sep 2001The 9/11 attack

On 11th September 2001, 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked planes and flew them into strategic targets in the US, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing 3000 people.

After the attack, there had been various allegations over the involvement of Saudi Arabia in the attack.

The 9/11 commission, however, found no evidence of the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials funding the terrorists.

Suspicion of Saudi Arabia's involvement

However, suspicions remain because of evidence of senior Saudi officials staying in the US at the time of the attack and the allegations of Saudi Arabia's financial support to terrorism. Additionally, 15 of the 19 terrorists involved were Saudi nationals.

17 Apr 2016US, Saudi Arabia lock horns over 9/11 bill

Opposition Administration against the bill

The bill, introduced in the Senate, will do away the immunity given to foreigners if they are found guilty of involvement in a terrorist attack on American soil.

The Obama administration is, however, against this bill as it is wary of its economic and diplomatic fallout.

It also feels that weakening of immunity would be reciprocated and could jeopardize the safety of Americans abroad.

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17 Apr 20169/11 evokes sharp response from Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has informed the Obama administration that it would sell hundreds of billions of dollars of American assets if the Congress passes the 9/11 bill.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, personally visited Washington.

He has threatened US lawmakers that the kingdom will sell $750 billion worth of treasury securities and other assets so that the courts cannot freeze them during investigations.

Obama scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia

US President Barack Obama will be visiting Riyadh on Wednesday 20th April. However, whether the 9/11 legislation would be discussed or not remains unclear.

18 May 2016US Senate passes 9/11 bill

The US Senate passed the 9/11 bill, that would allow families of victims of 9/11 attacks to hold Saudi Arabia accountable and sue the kingdom for damages.

However, the Obama administration and the White House has said that they would veto the bill.

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said the proposed bill "would change longstanding international law regarding sovereign immunity."