Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

On One’s Way to U.S. Courts | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In light of the JASTA controversy taking over the international platform, many opinions were given rise– especially with the United States bill publicly targeting its own ally, Saudi Arabia. JASTA, or Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, will allow families of victims of the September 11 attacks to sue the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Receiving international condemnation, as the bill defies principals of state sovereignty, the chief topic under the spotlight is the future of Saudi-U.S. ties and what is to become of the decades-held alliance.

People who mean well, rashly urge Saudi Arabia to cut all ties with the U.S., disregarding the fact that the alliance stands a great deal for the kingdom. The U.S. owns the technology which allowed achieving maximum rates on oil production.

All the more, shortsighted people ask the kingdom to forgo the U.S. dollar, failing to notice that China- a developing wealthy country with far less fervor for the U.S.- still uses the dollar when doing business, in addition to investing its surpluses in the U.S.

As for those holding malicious intentions for the kingdom, they promote for a Saudi-U.S. breakup, hoping that Saudi Arabia walks down the same road as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Iran’s Khomeini and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi– U.S.-backed leaders who later impetuously defied international conventions, and had their countries descend into chaos.

The Gulf kingdom is not naïve nor is it a politically inexperienced state to foolishly toss aside a well-established alliance that is decades old.

Kuwait Santa Fe Drilling Co. had caused similar heated controversy back in the 80s after the U.S. Congress having sequestered the company’s drilling privileges.

In 1981, Kuwait Petroleum was in the process of acquiring Santa Fe International — a California-based oil drilling, construction and engineering firm — in a $2.5 billion deal that was one of the largest takeovers of an American company involving Arab money at the time.

Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who had been Foreign Minister for 40 years, from 1963 to 2003, told me on the sidelines of one of the United Nations General Assembly’s regular sessions that Kuwait’s response would be shaped by negotiation.

I inquired on why the Gulf nation did not answer to the U.S.’ wayward action similarly, based on principal laws of retaliation “an eye for an eye” — it was at that moment that Sheikh Al-Sabah clarified that politics is not a contest driven by passion, but a course that ought to be driven by well-calculated and wise decisions.

True to that, the importance of sustaining international ties unfolded as years went by. Any dispute arising, at any time and place must be settled within principals upholding international ties, and must be approached by political tact.

Not exclusive to Gulf or Arab countries, the U.S. has had legal battles with many countries, such as Switzerland and Germany—the most recent being a U.S. filed suit against Germany’s Deutsche Bank for a dashing $14 billion.

More so, take to court is not a first for Saudi Arabia, which had registered a majority of wins in most suits filed against it. Similar to JASTA, Saudi Arabia had won over the case brought by a number of insurance companies for the Sep.11 victims and their families.

The Saudi kingdom also had rulings in its favor for a 2009 trial concerning the national oil giant Aramco.

Dr. Anas Al-Hajji, managing partner at Energy Outlook Advisors, wrote an article in 2009 warning on U.S. oil companies presenting several lawsuits, demanding Aramco hundreds of billions of dollars. Moreover, the companies were filing for court against government itself, so that sovereign immunity is dropped and legal pursuit becomes permissible.

The petition at the time required the signature of 15 oil producing countries, all OPEC members save Iran, and three other nations including Russia.

What is being missed here is that Sep.11 victims have already had their take to court, and a fund was established based on the rulings. Court ruled that the compensation was to be financed by U.S. aircraft companies and institutions whose planes had been used or involved in the horrendous attack.

Three years later, with hundreds of hearings held, $7 billion were allocated for compensation giving each of the families of victims an estimated $2 million.

The list of misconceptions and bad circumstances that had led to today’s JASTA is long. At the end of the day, Saudi Arabia is held victim to a negatively portrayed image, not to mention the continuous targeting of adversaries. Moreover, local extremists have marred the kingdom’s reputation.

As to who benefits the most of such a situation, the answer lies among the long list of greedy lawyers eyeing their cut. A certain amount of blame also goes to the U.S. government that did not invest properly its efforts to abort the bill in its early stages.

Saudi Arabia – with its legal and political capacities, added to the great list of ties bound by mutual interest within U.S. borders- will mount the tough challenge at hand.