US President Barack Obama will begin his visit to Saudi Arabia on 20 April amid tensions between the two countries over Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, a proposed piece of US legislation that will allow families of the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks to sue the Saudi government in US courts. The White House has said it will not back the bill.
Relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have soured for quite some time owing to certain US policies that did not go down well with the Middle East. Now the 9/11 congressional legislation threatens to further strain the relations as Riyadh warns of counter measures.
The bill is yet to be tabled in the Senate, but Riyadh has already issued a warning that it could sell off its multi-billion dollar American assets if the legislation comes into force, The Telegraph reported.
A recent New York Times report quoted Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir as saying that the country would be forced to get rid of about $750bn (£524bn) in treasury securities and other assets in the US before the US courts move to freeze these assets.
The White House has reportedly said it will veto the bill. "Our concerns about this law are not related to its impact on our relationship with a particular country. The concern that we have is simply this: it could put the United States and our taxpayers and our service members and our diplomats at significant risk if other countries were to adopt a similar law," Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
The legislation was drafted considering the fact that 15 of the 19 perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks were Saudi citizens, but the kingdom has not been formally implicated so far. The so-called 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui had claimed that al-Qaeda received millions of dollars of donation from the Saudi royal family in the 1990s. However, the Saudi Embassy had rubbished the claims.