RIYADH: Saudi Arabia could reduce valuable security and intelligence cooperation with longstanding ally Washington after a Congressional “stab in the back” allowing 9/11 victims to sue the kingdom, experts warn.
Cutting such cooperation is among the options available to Riyadh after Congress voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).
“I am afraid that this bill will have dire strategic implications” for the United States, Salman al-Ansari, the president of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), told AFP.
“This partnership has helped provide US authorities with accurate intelligence information” that helped stopped attacks, said Ansari.
“Saudi has been stabbed in the back by this unthoughtful and unrealistic bill,” he added.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan warned before the vote that the law “will have negative effects on international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.”
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said on Twitter on Thursday that the law “is an arrow launched by the US Congress at its own country”.
Mustafa Alani, a senior adviser to the Gulf Research Center, suggested a review of the Saudi-US alliance and said “How can you sue a country that is collaborating against the very same terrorism that they are baselessly being accused of?”.
“Your financial investments have to be reduced in the US, your political and security cooperation has to be reduced,” he added.
Saudi Arabia was home to 15 of the 19 Al-Qaeda hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States which killed nearly 3,000 people.
Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) was initially rebuked by the US president. The US Senate voted to override Barack Obama’s veto of a bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, the first such rebuke of his eight-year presidency.
“It will be very difficult for Saudi Arabia to continue in intelligence cooperation when they take such a hostile position,” said Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist and analyst.
He said Saudi officials are probably debating whether to act now or “wait until the first suit is filed in some small town in America”.