United States federal judge George Daniels has recently found Iran was somehow responsible for the 9/11 attacks, demanding it pay up to 6 billion dollars in compensation to the families of those deceased in the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. According to the verdict, the Iranian government, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Central Bank of Iran are to be held liable for deaths of more than a thousand people.
This compelled the Middle East Eye to remind Washington that according to the official US investigation of the 9/11 attacks carried out by a special commission organized by Congress, Iran did not play a direct role in the organization of these terrorist attacks. Moreover, fifteen out of the nineteen suspected hijackers involved in the attacks were identified as citizens of Saudi Arabia.
Against this background, it’s hard to describe the above mentioned ruling by a US federal judge to hold Iran accountable for the 9/11 in the absence of a similar decision regarding Saudi Arabia’s role in the attacks as anything but surprising.
It’s noteworthy that once the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), dubbed by the US media as the “9/11 victims’ law,” was adopted, the US federal court received a number of lawsuits against Saudi Arabia filed on behalf of the relatives of those killed and wounded in the 9/11 attacks. American citizens accused the kingdom of sponsoring terrorists and demanded it pay considerable financial compensation for the irreparable damage inflicted upon innocent American citizens.
Given that JASTA strips foreign entities from sovereign immunity, allowing relatives of those injured and deceased in the 9/11 attacks to file lawsuits in American courts against foreign diplomatic missions, the New York court has dismissed a motion made by the representatives of Saudi Arabia that demanded that all attempts to hold Riyadh liable for the 9/11 attacks be automatically rejected.
At the same time, it must be recalled that, in addition to those lawsuits filed on behalf of relatives killed and wounded in the 9/11 attacks, last year a number of American insurance companies filed a lawsuit against Saudi banks, accusing them of financing the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. The lawsuit says that without the assistance of these financial institutions, the terrorists behind the tragic attacks would have never been able to pull them off. Therefore, according to the plaintiffs, Saudi banks and organizations are compelled to pay them 1.4 billion dollars. However, in accordance with JASTA, if the plaintiffs are to win in court, the sum will automatically be tripled, reaching 4.2 billion dollars.
Riyadh has repeatedly threatened Washington with selling off all American assets and US securities it happens to be in possession of, estimated to be worth nearly 750 billion dollars. Along with this, Riyadh has begun taking a more active position in assisting Sunni victims of US military operations, threatening Washington with trials and lawsuits against the US armed forces.
The administration of US President Donald Trump attempted to resolve these issues in a series of discussions that Trump held with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, during a series of visits to the United States.
There’s little doubt that Washington played a role in the number of lawsuits against Saudi Arabia, to be leveraged in the future for pushing America’s interests in regards to Syria, Iran and the entire Middle East forward in discussions with the Saudi Crown Prince.
It’s noteworthy that Saudi Arabia sympathizes with Washington’s attempt to push Tehran off the regional stage, while claiming to oppose an Iranian bid for regional hegemony. In fact, Riyadh is determined to elevate Saudi Arabia to the status of regional hegemon itself, while enlisting the United States to assist it in this cause.
It’s no wonder that the American Conservative would state:
It seems passing strange—no, make that positively bizarre—that the United States, during the “America First” presidency of Donald Trump, should side with Saudi Arabia against Iran in what is a Muslim version of the “Great Game,” pitting Arab against Persian and Sunni against Shia. In the eyes of the two main adversaries, the stakes in this Great Game are monumental. Control of the Persian Gulf could be up for grabs, perhaps even the very future of Islam itself.
Considering Washington’s stated desire to withdraw American troops from Syria, as Americans tire with the Pentagon’s never-ending military adventures, Trump found it convenient to ease tensions between the two countries provoked by the adoption of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. But this easing comes at a price, as Saudi Arabia was forced into negotiating with the United States over the possible deployment of a limited number of its troops to Syria. However, Riyadh’s assistance in this matter alone will not be enough for the US. The Al-Saud family are determined to bring Egyptian, Jordanian and UAE troops along with them. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has also recently “advised” Qatar to send its troops to Syria as well while it has the option to do so.
However, Cairo has already announced its disagreement with this proposal, noting that Egypt’s armed forces are not mercenaries. Therefore, it is unlikely that Egyptian soldiers will be serving American interests in northern Syria.
Another constraint is Saudi Arabia’s ongoing aggression against Yemen. Even among American experts there are voices who dislike the idea of a Saudi presence in Syria, since Saudi troops proved to be a failure on the battlefield in Yemen. Yet, the Saudis and Emirates are good at taking advantage of their special forces and these kind of detachments could be deployed to northern Syria, but any full-scale engagement may lead to catastrophic results for the US-led coalition.
However, the same “Yemeni experience” of Riyadh will benefit Washington in another way: international criticism of the US because of its unjustified murdering of Syria’s civilians will be replaced with criticism aimed at Saudi Arabia, whose servicemen will eagerly carry out all of Washington’s instructions. History indicates the self-serving nature of Washington’s foreign policy, so it will be more than happy to transform Saudi Arabia as one of its scapegoats.
It’s been noted before that the purpose of US policy in the region should be to reduce the incidence of violence and unrest, restore order, and thereby repair the damage to which the United States itself has so heavily contributed to in recent years.
To that end, Washington shouldn’t be taking sides in the ongoing confrontation between Riyadh and Tehran, as well as the confrontation between Sunnis and Shiites. And since the White House has proclaimed the war on terror to be its main task, it must subject all of its activities in the region accomplishing it. As for JASTA, there’s no other option but to prosecute those Saudi entities that have been involved in sponsoring international terrorism.
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”