In Return Saudi Arabia Threatens to Sell $750 Billion in U.S. Assets

Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell three quarters of a trillion dollars in U.S. securities assets in response to proposed new legislation that would leave it vulnerable to being sued by U.S. citizens for any role the kingdom may have played in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. The bill was initially co-authored by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who later held the legislation up over concerns that it may leave the U.S. open to similar action from other international parties.

“The goal is to bring people to justice who have been involved in terrorism,” Graham said. But he added, “I don’t want Americans to be held liable because of one bad actor in some embassy somewhere.”

Graham said he would get behind the bill if the sponsors of the legislation agreed to changes that he believed were important to protect American interests abroad. He did not specify what changes he was requesting, reports New York Times.

“Very bluntly, they no longer have us in an energy straight jacket,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), referring to growing domestic oil production that has made the United States less reliant on the Saudis. He added that the American government now knows more about Saudi Arabia’s historical funding of extremist groups and that “Americans are also increasingly concerned about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.”

The Obama administration has been adamantly opposed to the bill, saying it leaves the door open to legal action against the U.S. as well.

“If we open up the possibility that individuals and the United States can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being continually sued by individuals in other countries,” President Obama said in an interview on Monday.

Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell some $750 billion in U.S. assets if the legislation does go through, though it seems the bill is likely to meet resistance in the House of Representatives, even if it manages to pass the Senate.

During a visit last month, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told lawmakers and Obama administration officials that Saudi Arabia would need to liquidate the assets in order to avoid them being frozen in court cases brought against the kingdom by families of the victims of the September 11 attacks.

CNN ran a report about President Obama’s official visit to Saudi Arabia today entitled: “Saudis Snub Obama on Riyadh Arrival.”

CNN said the “Saudi government dispatched the governor of Riyadh rather than a senior-level royal to shake Obama’s hand, a departure from the scene at the airport earlier in the day when King Salman was shown on state television greeting the leaders of other Gulf nations on the tarmac.”

“Despite all these differences, Saudi Arabia and America are not getting divorced,” said Bruce Riedel, director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution and a former CIA official. “We need each other,” the report said.

One thing hurrying the issue is a push in the U.S. to declassify a section amounting to 28 missing or redacted pages from the 9/11 inquiry. Those pages have been speculated by some researchers to show communications between members of the government of Saudi Arabia and the 9/11 hijackers prior to the attack on the U.S.

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