April 18, 2016

Saudi Arabia Threatens to Sell Off Billions in U.S. Assets if Congress Passes 9/11 Bill

Saudi Arabia is warning there will be serious economic repercussions if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The New York Times was first to report the news, noting the White House has been lobbying Congress to prevent the bill from passing, and many in the administration are concerned about the “diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.”
Saudi Arabia isn’t really hiding its feelings. The country’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, directly warned lawmakers of the legislation’s possible consequences during a visit to Washington last month. He said Saudi Arabia may have no choice but to sell as much as $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets. “A source with knowledge of the Saudis’ thinking” says any investments by Saudi Arabia in the U.S. would be put at risk so the kingdom merely needs to protect itself, reports CNN. Economists are skeptical Saudi Arabia could really go through with the threat without hurting its own economy in the process.
The measure that Secretary of State John Kerry has warned could “create a terrible precedent” marks a rare instance of bipartisan work for Congress. The bill, which would strip away immunity for foreign governments if it involves terrorist attacks that kill U.S. citizens on American soil, is co-sponsored by Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and John Cornyn of Texas. Former Sen. Bob Graham, who was the co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, said he was “outraged but not surprised” by Saudi Arabia’s warnings. The 9/11 Commission said there was “no evidence” to tie the Saudi government to the terrorist attack but a 28-page portion of the report is still classified.

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