Saudi me­dia at­tacks U.S. af­ter 9/11 law

Call for ‘su­per­fund’ to file coun­ter­suits

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

Saudi Ara­bia’s state-con­trolled me­dia have launched an in­tense rash of news ar­ti­cles against the United States and the new fed­eral law that al­lows Amer­i­cans to sue Riyadh over the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks.

Some col­umns are par­tic­u­larly harsh com­ing from a U.S. ally, ex­press­ing an­tiSemitic ideas and im­ages and ac­cus­ing the U.S. of a his­tory of atroc­i­ties.

Saudi writ­ers have re­vived con­spir­acy the­o­ries that the at­tacks on the World Trade Cen­ter and Pen­tagon were car­ried about by the U.S. govern­ment or Is­rael and the Jews. They ac­cuse Wash­ing­ton of cre­at­ing ter­ror­ism as an ex­cuse to kill peo­ple and ad­vo­cate pulling away from the close se­cu­rity ar­range­ment with the U.S.

The ar­ti­cles call for the cre­ation of a “su­per­fund” that would bankroll reprisal law­suits from Saudi Ara­bia and other coun­tries against the United States.

“These are all govern­ment-con­trolled,” said Steven Stal­in­sky, who di­rects the Mid­dle East Me­dia Re­search In­sti­tute (MEMRI), which com­piled the re­port on the Saudi press bar­rage. “They will never write any­thing crit­i­cal of the Saudi govern­ment, royal fam­ily. If they have a dis­agree­ment with any of the pa­pers, they will fire the ed­i­tor or writer.”

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has sought to pre­serve close ties with the oil-rich king­dom, ap­prov­ing huge arms sales and pro­vid­ing sup­port for Riyadh’s some­times er­ratic air war against Shi­ite rebels in neigh­bor­ing Ye­men, where the U.S. is fight­ing al Qaeda mil­i­tants op­er­at­ing in the coun­try. Pres­i­dent Obama, a strong de­fender of Is­lam, was pho­tographed bow­ing when he met Saudi King Ab­dul­lah in 2009.

Over­all, both Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions have viewed the Per­sian Gulf na­tion, for all the bi­lat­eral ten­sions, as a key check against vi­o­lent Salafi jihadi groups such as al Qaeda and the Is­lamic State. But events on Capi­tol Hill last month badly shook the re­la­tion­ship.

The House and Sen­ate passed the Jus­tice Against Spon­sors of Ter­ror­ism Act by wide mar­gins on Sept. 28. Mr. Obama ve­toed the mea­sure, cit­ing the prin­ci­ple of sov­er­eign im­mu­nity as well as the fear of the kinds of reprisals that the Saudi press is now en­cour­ag­ing. But Con­gress, say­ing they were act­ing in sup­port of the fam­i­lies of 9/11 vic­tims seek­ing jus­tice, over­rode the veto. It was the first Obama veto in eight years that was not sus­tained by law­mak­ers.

The law does not tar­get Saudi Ara­bia specif­i­cally but does al­low le­gal suits against any coun­try that has proved to abet ter­ror­ist at­tacks on Amer­i­cans. It states that a U.S. na­tional “may file a civil ac­tion against a for­eign state for phys­i­cal in­jury, death or dam­age as a re­sult of an act of in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism com­mit­ted by a des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Al Qaeda car­ried out the 9/11 at­tacks, and 15 of the 19 ter­ror­ists in­volved were Saudis.

In the 15 years since the at­tacks, which killed nearly 3,000 peo­ple, sur­vivors and some na­tional se­cu­rity fig­ures have ex­pressed sus­pi­cion that high-rank­ing Saudis, even the royal fam­ily, sup­ported the plot­ters or at least were aware of their plans.

Saudi Ara­bia is home to strict Wah­habi Sunni ide­ol­ogy. The Saudis have ac­knowl­edged that wealthy donors funded Is­lamic ter­ror­ists but say they em­barked on a long campaign to stem the flow and to preach against ex­trem­ism.

But the 9/11 sur­vivors’ sus­pi­cions were aug­mented by a re­cently de­clas­si­fied FBI re­port to a con­gres­sional panel in­ves­ti­gat­ing the at­tack in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math. The re­port doc­u­ments con­tacts and fi­nan­cial ties be­tween Saudi of­fi­cials and the Saudi plot­ters when they pre­pared for the strike in Cal­i­for­nia and Florida.

The blue-rib­bon com­mis­sion that con­ducted a length­ier in­ves­ti­ga­tion said it fol­lowed the re­port’s leads but could not sub­stan­ti­ate that any Saudi of­fi­cial sup­ported the at­tack or had prior knowl­edge.

New charges

Even as Saudi Ara­bia de­nies those charges, there emerged fresh as­ser­tions that the royal fam­ily sup­ports ter­ror­ism. This time, the source was for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee.

Out of the State De­part­ment in 2014, Mrs. Clin­ton sent an email to her now­cam­paign chair­man, John Podesta, say­ing Saudi Ara­bia and Per­sian Gulf neigh­bor Qatar helped fi­nance the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist group. This is an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to the two coun­tries’ fund­ing arms for vir­tu­ally any group op­posed to their archri­val, Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad, in­clud­ing al Qaeda and the Is­lamic State.

The MEMRI re­port re­pro­duces a po­lit­i­cal car­toon in the daily Al-Watan. It shows an Amer­i­can flag-dec­o­rated arm sleeve as a hand lights the fuse on a bomb in the shape of Earth.

“The Saudi press pub­lished dozens of ar­ti­cles con­demn­ing the law, warn­ing about Saudi re­ac­tions to it and its po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic ram­i­fi­ca­tions for Saudi-U.S. re­la­tions, and pre­sent­ing var­i­ous Saudi op­tions to counter it,” MEMRI said.

They in­cluded “es­tab­lish­ing a Gulf lobby in the U.S.; aid­ing in the fil­ing of law­suits against the U.S. around the world; end­ing Saudi-U.S. se­cu­rity co­or­di­na­tion; end­ing the set­ting of oil prices in dol­lars; es­tab­lish­ing an in­de­pen­dent Saudi weapons in­dus­try, sim­i­lar to the Ira­nian nu­clear pro­gram, as a means of pres­sur­ing the U.S.; and more.”

The of­fi­cial news­pa­per Al-Riyadh said in an ed­i­to­rial, “Ac­cord­ing to all opin­ions, in­clud­ing the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion’s, this law sets a dan­ger­ous prece­dent that ex­poses the in­ter­ests of the U.S. and its cit­i­zens to dan­ger, as its im­ple­men­ta­tion will not stop at the U.S. bor­ders with­out in­fil­trat­ing into other coun­tries as well.”

Al-Riyadh also said in an es­pe­cially harsh in­dict­ment of U.S. his­tory that cit­i­zens in Viet­nam, South Korea, South Amer­i­can and the Mid­dle East will join forces to sue for mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tions in their coun­tries. Sev­eral top colum­nists joined in the con­dem­na­tion of the new law and the U.S.

In the same news­pa­per, jour­nal­ist Ab­dalla Al-Nasser wrote, “The U.S., which pur­ports to re­spect hu­man rights, in­ter­na­tional law and U.N. res­o­lu­tions, is the first to vi­o­late and ig­nore them. The U.S., with its men­tal­ity of arm­ing it­self, works to es­tab­lish its global em­pire, and to this end uses all meth­ods of vi­o­lent takeover of the peo­ples of the earth, par­tic­u­larly in the Mid­dle East.”

“The U.S. [first] cre­ates ter­ror­ism and then ex­ter­mi­nates peo­ples in the name of the strug­gle against it. These forms of abuse, vi­o­lent takeover, de­cep­tion, and crime are ele­ments of the Amer­i­can iden­tity.”

Colum­nist Adel Al-Harbi wrote, “The U.S. killed hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ja­panese when it de­lib­er­ately in­cin­er­ated Hiroshima and Na­gasaki. … Don’t their fam­i­lies have the right to sue the mur­der­ers? Doesn’t Viet­nam have the right to sue those re­spon­si­ble for killing over 1 mil­lion Viet­namese over a pe­riod of 13 years?”

Colum­nist Has­san Al-Zahirir wrote in the daily Al-Me­d­ina that there is ev­i­dence that Iran and Is­rael’s Mos­sad in­tel­li­gence agency and four “Jewish crime syn­di­cates” car­ried out the Sept. 11 at­tacks.

He re­peated the dis­cred­ited story that “this as­sump­tion is sup­ported by the [fact] that 700 Jews did not show up for work at the [World] Trade Cen­ter [on the day of the at­tack], and they wouldn’t have es­caped cer­tain death had they not been warned in ad­vance.”

A car­toon in Al-Riyadh showed a fig­ure rep­re­sent­ing the U.S. look­ing through binoc­u­lars from be­hind Star of David glasses, as a sin­is­ter-look­ing Jewish man stands be­hind him.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

While sur­vivors and na­tional se­cu­rity fig­ures have sus­pi­cions about Saudi in­volve­ment in the 9/11 at­tacks, some in the Arab world point to U.S. in­ter­ven­tions around the world.

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