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Abhinav Shukla asked: What are the likely consequence of Saudi Arabia selling up to $750 billion (£520 billion) in treasury securities and other assets in the US should the US Congress pass the proposed 9/11 related bill?

Md. Muddassir Quamar replies: The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) that was passed by both houses of the US Congress on September 28, 2016, overruling a presidential veto, replaces an existing law that allowed US citizens to sue states designated as “sponsors of terrorism” (SoT) by the State Department. As per the new law, states not designated as SoT can also be sued in a US court. Though JASTA does not mention Saudi Arabia, it is likely to affect it as numerous cases in the US courts are pending against the kingdom for its alleged involvement in the September 11 attacks in the US.

Saudi threats to sell up to US$ 750 billion in treasury securities, if actualised, can create temporary hiccup in debt management in the US but are unlikely to have a major impact. In fact, Saudi Arabia is unlikely to go ahead with the threat as it can seriously harm its own economy that is facing perilous situation due to low international oil prices. It might, however, take a few symbolic measures but would prefer to wait for the new US administration to assume office. President-elect Donald Trump though had taken a strong position in favour of the JASTA and had criticised President Barack Obama for his veto, might like to come to a compromise with the kingdom’s leadership as the new US administration would not want to jeopardise relations with a strong ally in the region.

In sum, the realpolitik of international relations might overcome the desire of families of September 11 victims to force the Saudi ruling family to pay for loss of life of their loved ones.

(Posted on December 01, 2016)

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