Column: Saudi Arabia on the brink of unprecedented financial and political blackmail…

By: Abdel Bari Atwan*

 We were not surprised at the landslide vote in both the US Senate and House of Representatives, which has overridden the “veto” of US President Barack Obama against the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a legislation that allows the relatives of the victims of September 11 attacks of 2001 to file lawsuits against the Saudi government for compensations. However, we were surprised by first, the hasty abortion of Obama’s “veto”; second, the overwhelming and unprecedented majority of votes that were against it.

In the Senate, for example, only one single senator -from among 97 senators- voted for the “veto”, which reveals the size of malice and hatred against Saudi Arabia -Washington’s staunchest ally in the Middle East region and the world for more than seventy years.

Is it conceivable that this ally (Saudi Arabia) which fought all America’s wars enjoys nothing of the Senate’s support except only one vote?

It is not “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” as the law is called, but it is the law of revenge against this ally that was acquitted by investigations -conducted by a congressional committee- of any direct or indirect formal role in these attacks. However, it seems that the role of Saudi Arabia as an ally to the United States is over, as it is no longer useful.


The strategic relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States -that the meeting between Saudi King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud and US President Roosevelt aboard a warship in the Suez Canal in 1945 laid its foundation stone- is over or has been terminated by the American side, because the Saudi “milking cow” has collapsed and its financial “udder” has dried up; and also due to the fact that the United States is no longer in need for the Saudi oil.

This strategic relationship was built on a base that is supposed to be solid, i.e. “US protection in return for the Saudi oil”; the US need for oil is over, due to the shale oil (ten million barrels a day), and finding other alternative sources, so the US protection for Saudi Arabia is over, and the ally turned to an enemy in a blink of an eye.

Saudi Arabia is currently standing on the edge of an unprecedented financial and political “blackmail”, at a time when its financial reserves have diminished and shrunk, and the Kingdom is now imposing taxes and austerity policies on its citizens to reduce the huge deficits in its budgets. There are $ 750 billion of Saudi investments, deposits, and assets in America, including $ 119 billion of treasury bonds, which will be seized and frozen, perhaps as a down payment of many expected payments to compensate the victims of the attacks, estimated by experts at about $ 3.3 trillion. This means if these estimates are correct, that the Saudi oil will continue to be ‘mortgaged’ to America for decades to repay the value of the required compensations.

The United States had implicated the Saudi authorities in a war in Syria, another in Yemen, and a third in Libya, and above all this and that the war in Afghanistan. And then, America abandoned Saudi Arabia, overturned it, and left it to its fate, alone, in the context of retaliatory plans that had been prepared in black, darkened rooms several years before.

America did not care about the threats of Mr. Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, of withdrawing the Saudi investments in the United States. The US did not also change its stance after the visit of Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Washington a few months ago, or pay any attention to the Saudi offers to buy weapons, or even to the Kingdom’s pumping of new investments to revive the American economy. This is simply because the US “Administration” has decided to declare hostility and vengeance against its old ally, and the House of Representatives and the Senate have to implement this attitude, and “veto” of Obama was only a smokescreen.


The coming days of the Saudi regime will be very difficult at all levels, after being stabbed by its US ally in the chest, the back, and the “pocket” together, at the most critical time in its modern history, and with immoral ruthlessness.

No immunity to states or allies .. No friendship with the Arabs .. All these considerations fall when the ruling US “Administration” decides to override them, without any consideration for those who are inhabiting the White House.

They began in Iraq .. and then in Libya .. After that, they moved with their axe to Syria .. and employed the Arabs, their League, and their money in this destruction. And now, it is the turn of the Saudi ally, which fought all these wars with a remarkable enthusiasm and without delay.

I have never been with the United States and have not absolutely stood by its side. I never trusted the US intentions and was not deceived by its honeyed promises about justice and democracy. In fact, I always stood in the other trench, so I feel that my conscience is relieved.

What can the Saudi leadership do about this ingratitude of its ally?

I do not believe that the employment of some American Zionists -for “lobbying” to defend the Kingdom as we currently see- is useful. Also, we do not see that the rapprochement with the Israelis -as some Saudis, who adopt normalization with Israel, advise- is a solution. The matter requires a “coup” on all previous policies that led to these endings but we do not believe that the Saudi leadership is in favor of coups, except only outside its borders, and in the Arab countries that do not really stand by its side.

The coming days will reveal a lot .. and we should only wait.


*Abdel Bari Atwan is the editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm, an Arab world digital news and opinion website. He was the editor-in-chief of the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi from the founding of that paper in 1989 until July 2013.

(Published in Rai al-Youm, an Arab world digital news and opinion website on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, and translated for MEO)