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Monday, October 3, 2016

Relations with Saudi Arabia are Risky as Well as Confused

Relations with Saudi Arabia are Risky as Well as Confused

by Paul R. Pillar
Mainly because of domestic American politics and the workings of the U.S. Congress, everyone has a right to be confused about U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia, including the Saudis themselves. The first Congressional override of any veto by President Barack Obama has come on the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA); Saudi Arabia is the obvious, if unstated, target of this legislation, which permits private lawsuits against foreign governments on grounds of alleged involvement in acts of terrorism. The significant drawbacks of the legislation, motivating the presidential veto, include the precedent it sets for U.S. actions abroad becoming the stuff of foreign lawsuits, and the needless riling of the Saudis with a measure that is unlikely to bring any monetary award to families of 9/11 victims anyway. Most of all, as Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) aptly put it, this departure from the principle of sovereign immunity leads to “exporting your foreign policy to trial lawyers.”

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