Saudi 9/11 law shows US has misleading attitude toward kingdom
© Getty

The international community is growing increasingly concerned with regards to the forthcoming U.S. administration, especially since American political affairs have some kind of residual effect on nearly every corner of the globe.

Despite its recent isolationist stances, America still remains a powerful military, economic, diplomatic and even cultural force in the world. It’s rather obvious that U.S. foreign policy is still rapidly evolving, as it is becoming more polarized than during any other time in recent history.

ADVERTISEMENT

I would even assert that the countries that are most concerned with Washington’s change of attitude are its allies, not its adversaries, as any country that would adopt an adversarial tone with the U.S. considers that tone to be part of its daily routine. Its allies, however, have grown accustomed to being relegated to the “safe zone”, waiting with anxious anticipation for whatever final form the last ten years of U.S. foreign policy will take. 

It is well within America’s right to reassess its partnerships in order to maximally achieve its interests. The question is, does the current direction of American foreign policy help it achieve that end? 

I think the answer to that question lies in how the global community responded to America’s latest change to its attitudes towards its allies. While Washington has undoubtedly committed egregious mistakes in its foreign relations, the most obvious mistake is the recent passing of the JASTA bill, which throws all established international conventions out the window by lifting sovereign immunity from every country in the world. Despite all the concerns that were voiced from both local and foreign government officials, congress appears to be willfully oblivious of the irrevocably dire consequences on America’s security, economy and diplomacy that enacting such a bill into law would most likely have. 

Before it was passed unanimously by congress, the global community has largely condemned the bill, with the European Union issuing a strongly worded statement that raised concerns about “possible reciprocity from others." The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that with the passing of JASTA, the U.S. has demonstrated a “disregard for international law." The Chinese foreign ministry also mentioned in a recent statement that “international anti-terrorism cooperation should respect international law and principles of international relations, including fundamental principles of nations’ sovereign equality."

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have additionally warned about the potential fallout for American interests with its allies, and the Muslim World League also raised the concern that the bill is a violation of the UN charter of sovereign equality. Even the highest levels of the U.S. government have been very vocal about the potentially adverse repercussions of Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), from CIA Director John Brennan, who mentioned that the law “will have grave implications for the national security of the United States”, to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who warned that the law would have "devastating consequences for U.S. troops overseas”, to President Obama himself, who said that enacting JASTA into law would “neither protect Americans from terrorist attacks nor improve the effectiveness of our response to such attacks."

With all these concerns that were raised about the legislation by even the highest-ranking U.S. officials, the mainstream media not only remained critical of Saudi Arabia, but it also curiously glossed over one of the least known yet most important aspects of the JASTA debate. The same congress that passed the bill also mandated two independent investigations in 2004 and 2015, both of which eventually concluded that the Saudi government had no role in the 9/11 attacks. More recently, White House spokesman Josh Earnest stated that U.S. intelligence officials have reviewed the often-cited “28 pages”, after which they concluded that “they show no evidence of Saudi complicity."

With this law, America will effectively place the next president who will assume the Oval Office in perpetual congressional and legislative gridlock, which will in turn put them in the exact same position that current President Obama is in: that of a lame duck. If it’s not amended or revoked by the time Clinton or Trump are sworn in, JASTA will place a heavy burden on either administration by likely hampering any of the security, economic or foreign policies that they are now peddling in the final stretch of their campaigns. The question is, is this what America wants?

One of America’s greatest strengths is that it values the pluralism of ideas within its political framework. However, it is not in America’s interest to have that pluralism translate into a duplicitous foreign policy, where it could purport to hold a certain position one day, and an entirely different position the next.

For example, Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryA lesson of the Trump, Tlaib, Omar, Netanyahu affair Trump's winning weapon: Time The Memo: O'Rourke looks to hit reset button MORE stressed earlier this year that the United States has as “clear an alliance, and as strong a friendship” with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as it has ever had. The only thing that is clear at this point is that there seems to be a palpable disconnect between the legislative branch of the United States and its executive branch, as the vast majority of congress have been led to vote for a legislation that does not reflect the secretary of State’s sentiment.

This has been illustrated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster Hickenlooper announces Senate bid Trump orders elimination of student loan debt for thousands of disabled veterans MORE, who expressed that there was a “failure to communicate early about the potential consequences” of JASTA. He and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanSoaring deficits could put Trump in a corner if there's a recession Paul Ryan moving family to Washington Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington MORE both expressed a willingness to altering the legislation in the post-election congressional period.

The American political fabric should celebrate the fact that it could harbor opinions that are radically different from either end of the liberal or conservative spectrum. However, differences of opinion should not translate into the sort of congressional dysfunction that causes the country that they are sworn to serve to act against its own self-interest.

In fact, it is in the interest of the United States to have both the legislative and executive branches to communicate and collaborate more effectively to not only guarantee the country’s economic prosperity, but the well-being of its diplomatic relations with its long-standing allies, including Saudi Arabia. This will in turn bolster America’s security, which I believe is a crucial extension of global security. 

Salman Al-Ansari is the founder and president of the Washington-based Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC).


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.