A Saudi Arabian government official has reportedly threatened that the Saudi government will sell off $750 billion in U.S. assets if Congress moves ahead with a plan to pass a bill that allows Saudi Arabia to be held responsible for playing a role in the 9/11 attacks. Nearly 3,000 people died tragically in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in which al-Qaeda terrorists flew four airplanes into the World Trade Center (WTC) tower and Pentagon.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir delivered the warning last month in Washington, according to a report by the New York Times.
Al-Jubeir reportedly warned U.S. lawmakers that the Saudi government would take urgent steps to pull up to $750 billion dollars in treasury securities and other assets if Congress tries to pass the 9/11 bill.
Saudi Arabia, according to al-Jubeir, would be forced to sell its assets out of fear that once the bill is made law, it could lead to U.S. courts issuing orders to freeze Saudi assets.
But pundits also note that regardless of the ability of the Saudis to follow through with the threat, the mere fact that they have issued it is a sign of potential significant diplomatic repercussions if Congress passes the bill.
However, the intense lobbying by the administration against Congress passing the bill has angered some families of the 9/11 victims who accuse the administration of helping the Saudis to evade justice. But the administration has said that it is lobbying against the move to pass the bill because of the potential diplomatic consequences such as serious legal risks against U.S. citizens overseas.
The administration of President George Bush and later President Barack Obama have refused to release the 9/11 documents, saying that it could compromise national security.
And despite the fact that the 9/11 Commission had concluded in its public report released on July 22, 2004, that there was no evidence of Saudi official involvement in the attacks, a previous congressional inquiry had cited evidence implicating senior Saudi officials living in the U.S. at the time. But immunity conferred by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1979, may explain partly why relatives of the 9/11 victims have not been able to bring a lawsuit against members of the Saudi royal family suspected of involvement in financing the attacks.
Under intense pressure from the some members of Congress — such as the former Florida Senator Bob Graham and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) — and the public to release the documents, the Obama administration is expected to announce its final decision by June.
While insisting that the documents contain no evidence of official Saudi involvement, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed recently that administration officials were reviewing the files ahead of anticipated release. But he could not confirm whether President Obama had personally looked at the documents.
The pressure on the administration to release the documents follows claims that the files are being kept secret because they contain information that could reveal the involvement of the Saudis in the deadly attacks, a claim that the U.S. government has denied.
Although it has been determined that 15 of the 19 hijackers that flew planes into buildings in Washington and New York were citizens of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government has consistently and vehemently denied any direct or indirect involvement in the attacks. But many who believe that members of the Saudi royal family covertly sponsored the attacks through a network of Saudi financial institutions and charities have pointed out that Osama bin Laden, believed to have masterminded the attack, was a member of a Saudi upper-class family.
The latest developments come as Obama is expected to arrive in Riyadh on Wednesday to attend a meeting with leaders of the country, including Saudi’s King Salman. There has been pressure on the administration to release the classified 28-page document before the meeting so that President Obama will be able to discuss relevant issues arising with representatives of the Saudi government.
But even though it is unlikely that the document will be released before Obama travels to Saudi Arabia, some analysts point out that it does not rule out the possibility that Obama will discuss relevant issues with the Saudis when he meets with them in Riyadh.
[Photo By Susan Walsh/AP]