Saudi Arabia appears far less worried that its U.S. assets could be seized under lawsuits filed by 9/11 victims.
Earlier this year, it threatened to dump $750 billion in U.S. investments, including Treasuries, if the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act was passed into law.
The JASTA, which allows families of those killed in the terror attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, became law after Congress voted to override President Obama’s veto on Sept 28. Just two days later, a woman filed a lawsuit in Washington, claiming the kingdom is partially responsible for her husband’s death.
“There is nothing that worries us about the JASTA law,” said Ahmed Al-Khulaifi, governor of the Saudi central bank in a statement carried by the Saudi news agency. “The kingdom’s investments in the U.S. enjoy sovereign immunity and there is no call for concern.”
Saudi Arabia said in September the law would erode the principle of sovereign immunity. So why the rethink?
“I assume that the kingdom is now aware more than anytime before that the law will surely be amended or revoked by the U.S. legislative body,” said Salman Al-Ansari, founder of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee, an organization that promotes ties between the two countries.
Almost immediately after the vote, senior members of Congress — including top Republicans — said the bill should be changed to protect U.S. troops overseas from retaliatory prosecution. Secretary of State John Kerry was reported in late October saying that discussions were continuing on how to prevent the law undermining sovereign immunity, including that of the U.S.
Saudi Arabia held $116.8 billion of U.S. Treasuries as of March, according to the Treasury Department. Dumping such a vast sum of government bonds at once could cause the securities to tank, potentially destabilizing global financial markets. It could also severely hurt Saudi Arabia’s own finances.
“I do not think that Saudi Arabia will pull its investments from the U.S.,” Al-Ansari told CNNMoney. “Saudis know that America remains its most valuable and time-honored partner, even in the face of economic and political turmoil.”
Saudi Arabia has denied any role in the 9/11 attacks and has never been formally implicated, but 15 of the 19 hijackers that carried them out were Saudi citizens.