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What leading Saudi commentators said on JASTA law

The US law known as JASTA would allow families of 9/11 victims to seek damages from the Saudi government

Published: Updated:

News about the passing of the US law allowing citizens to sue Saudi Arabia over the 9/11 attacks has been met with mixed reactions among Saudi media figures.

Many of them dedicated their newspaper columns and social media accounts to offer an insight on what the kingdom was likely to do after the US Congress voted overwhelmingly to approve the law, known as JASTA, which would allow families of 9/11 victims to seek damages from the Saudi government.

In his article “All the way to American courts”, veteran Saudi journalist Abdulrahman al-Rashed wrote that everything should be “put in context” as he hinted the path the Kingdom should be prepared to when matters are taken to courts.

“We must put the Congress’ JASTA decision within the context of events and practices there and must tackle it accordingly.” Al-Rashed also urged the Saudi society to avoid exaggerated reactions.

“No matter what the disputes are, they must be put within the context and that one must not be dragged behind good people or behind those who spread rumors.”

In his column, Saudi columnist Ahmad Al-Faraj stressed on the importance of Saudi-US relations despite ongoing differences over JASTA.

“Even if we felt irritated by the passing of JASTA law, our relationship with the United States was, and should remain, of utmost importance to us.

“I do not think talks about confronting the US and boycotting its products would sound convincing to anyone. Meanwhile, the duty to be cautious remains, with our hope for the next period to witness a breakthrough that no one would expect.

Saudi columnist Mohammed Al-Sheikh defended the longtime Saudi role in fighting terrorism and recalled how the kingdom was subjected to terror acts.

Having said that, Al-Sheikh added that the US Congress must have noted the kingdom’s long war on terrorism when drafting JASTA.

“Despite the hype surrounding this unjust, unacceptable and unreasonable law, I am sure that it’s enactment is impossible. At the end, US lawmakers should find a sensible way to avoid its enactment.”

In his article “How will Riyadh face JASTA,” Saudi columnist Jamil al-Thiyabi suggested the kingdom can always hit back at JASTA using economic tools.

“Most likely the kingdom will resort to an economic response for the stubbornness of Congress members. And it will be expected in this regard that economic deals will be at a slower pace compared to how it was prior Wednesday Sept. 28,2016. Many American assets and investments will also be reviewed.”

In the same vein, Saudi Salman al-Ansari - founder of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee - tweeted saying: “#JASTA is making the #US unintentionally throw their economy under the bus, jeopardizing their investment climate for the foreseeable future.”

Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. Riyadh has always dismissed suspicions that it backed the attackers, who killed nearly 3,000 people under the banner of Islamist militant group al-Qaeda.

Riyadh is one of Washington's longest-standing and most important allies in the Middle East and part of a US-led coalition fighting ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria.

The Saudi government lobbied strongly against JASTA, which stands for the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, in the run-up to the vote, and warned it would undermine the principle of sovereign immunity.