Saudi Arabia’s ‘Claws Are Showing’ As Tensions With U.S. Rise Over 9-11 Claims

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal (R) and US Secretary of State John Kerry talk during a tea ceremony on June 27, 2014 at King Abdulaziz International Airport in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

The ongoing tension between Saudi Arabia and the United States reached new heights recently after U.S. lawmakers insinuated that Riyadh may have been complicit in the 9/11 attacks.

The acrimony received a great deal of attention in the Arab media. The mass-circulation Egyptian newspaper The Seventh Day ran the headline: “Saudi Arabia’s claws are showing as Foreign Minister sends threatening message to Washington.”

The coverage in other Arab media outlets, which relied mainly on the American media, was more low-key. The Saudi media, for its part, largely ignored the issue.

However, the debate on social media was buzzing. While users mainly criticized the American government, many asked whether Saudi Arabia could sell the American bonds it owns, and how this would affect the Saudi and American economies.

Mohammed Alangari tweeted: “America is an empire, but given its debts that have reached fantastical heights, it’s become a liability for the world. Its fiscal policy is unclear, and we shouldn’t trust it to lead the world’s economy.”

Mujtahed, a blogger known for his opposition to the Saudi regime, was unenthusiastic: “Selling the bonds will not harm America because they will simply have new owners. The American economy would suffer if Saudi Arabia withdrew its investments, but we’re currently unable to do it.”

“Why are the Americans threatening when everybody knows that Saudi Arabia had no connection to 9/11 and that Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility?” Omar wondered. “They’re doing it to twist Saudi Arabia’s arm into conforming to their new [Middle East] policy.”

“The problem isn’t the accusations,” tweeted Miriam. “It is that they are accompanied by a decision to freeze Saudi assets. … Everything we achieved over the years will be lost.”

“Let’s sell the bonds at a low price to make them plummet,” suggested Sheikh Abdel Rahman. “Why are we buying their bonds at all? Let’s issue some of ours and sell them.”

On Saturday, the New York Times first reported that the Saudis were threatening economic consequences if a U.S. bill is passed allowing the Saudi government to be held accountable for 9/11 in American courts.

The Times reported:

Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage, according to administration officials and congressional aides from both parties, and the Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon. The officials have warned senators of diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.

CNN confirmed the story, reporting:

Saudi Arabia is warning it will sell off billions in American assets if the U.S. Congress passes a bipartisan bill that would allow victims of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks to sue foreign governments.

Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir issued the warning to U.S. lawmakers last month during a visit to Washington, two senior State Department officials told CNN. A source with knowledge of the Saudis’ thinking said investments would be put in jeopardy if this bill passes, so they are trying to protect themselves from risk.