9/11 victims bill further divides US, Saudi

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/30 0:03:39

The US Congress on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to override a veto by President Barack Obama, passing a bill that allows the families of 9/11 victims to sue governments that supported and funded the terrorists. It is obvious the bill is targeting Saudi Arabia.

The voting result, 97:1 in the Senate and 348:77 in the House suggests that many Democratic lawmakers have turned against Obama, dealing a heavy blow to him as the bill will become law without Obama signing it.

One of the most important allies of Washington in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is already estranged by the deal the Obama administration reached with Iran. As the 9/11 victims bill is passed, tens of thousands of American families might launch lawsuits against the Saudi government, forcing US courts to freeze certain assets of the country in the US. Riyadh signaled that it would dump US government bonds it holds, as much as $750 billion, in retaliation if the bill was passed.

The US-Saudi Arabia relationship will be further strained. Turkey, another important ally of the US in the Middle East, has broken its ties with Washington due to a failed coup and a denied request to extradite Fethullah Gulen who Turkey believes is the mastermind. The structure through which Washington imposes its influence on the Middle East is falling apart.

Allowing Americans to directly sue Saudi Arabia may open a Pandora's box. After the Cold War, the US has bombarded many places around the world in several wars it launched, causing heavy casualties of innocent people. Theoretically, the bill may set a precedent for victims to sue the White House.

Despite Obama's veto, the bill finally passed with overwhelming Congressional support 15 years after the 9/11 attacks. This reflects the Americans' deep hatred of terrorism. US citizens no longer want to sacrifice their own interests for the US overall geopolitical landscape, and have had enough of Saudi Arabian-backed countries which are home to many terrorists. For Americans, the fact that Osama bin Laden and most of his accomplices came from Saudi Arabia is more striking than Riyadh's promotion of Washington's Middle East policy.

The US is imploding amid the country's declining clout in the world. Although Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is opposed by many in mainstream US society, the 9/11 bill resonates to his claims. The passage of the bill is good for Trump's race for president.

Saudi Arabia is a leading power among the Gulf countries. The changing Washington-Riyadh dynamic and Saudi Arabia's domestic instability may have domino effects on the Gulf. The aftereffects of the Iraq war and the "Arab Spring" on the Middle East are still fermenting. The Middle East upheaval has been more profound than was expected, and is out of control.

With less dependency on Gulf oil, the White House is turning its attention from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region, yet the former is now the main battlefield to combat terrorism. Obama has strong will to end the war on terror and is attempting to direct Americans' attention to Washington's imagined enemy, but the recent terror attacks and refugee influx are in turn bombarding Europe, challenging Obama's rebalancing policy to the Asia-Pacific region.

How the US will now handle the effects of the 9/11 bill on the Middle East is worth high attention.

Posted in: Editorial

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