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All the way to American courts

These are people with good intentions who urging Saudi Arabia to boycott United States over JASTA

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

These are people with good intentions who are urging Saudi Arabia to boycott United States over the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). However, they are unaware of the country’s importance to us as it has the technology that allowed the production of the largest quantity of oil in the world.

They are calling on us to stop using the dollar but they are unaware that China – which is bigger and richer and which loves the US less – uses the dollar more than us. China also keeps and invests all its surplus funds in the United States.

Meanwhile those with ill intentions are inciting against the US as they think the Saudi government is naive enough to sacrifice its long history with it, just like Saddam Hussein, Moammar Qaddafi and Khomeini did. They became history due to this folly and for listening to such an advice.

I learnt the first lesson of this kind in the beginning of the 1980s when the Kuwaiti press condemned the American Congress. They were responding to its decision to annul the right of a Kuwaiti-owned firm from leasing federal land for energy exploration. Santa Fe was the American oil company which the Kuwaiti government had bought.

Around the time, I happened to meet Kuwaiti Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad, during the UN General Assembly session. Sheikh Sabah was then the minister of foreign of affairs. I asked him: “Will you respond to the Americans?” He said: “We are negotiating with them.”

I was surprised and replied: “But won’t you respond to them based on the principle of an eye for an eye?” Sheikh Sabah smiled and said: “What eye and how when they have all our eyes?” Seven years passed by and the significance of international relations dawned on me when it was revealed that 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.

Switzerland has been involved in legal battles in the United States. In Germany, Volkswagen is arguing over a $9 billion settlement to compensate its US dealers for losses sustained due to the company’s emissions scandal. A more recent lawsuit is related to Deutsche Bank as the US authorities are demanding a fine of up to $14 billion.

We must put the Congress’ JASTA decision within the context of events and practices there and must tackle it accordingly

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Saudi Aramco

Saudi Arabia has itself been involved in lawsuits in the US and it won most of them including lawsuits related to the September 11 twin attacks. Before that, the Saudi government had been involved in a major lawsuit – represented by the oil ministry and Saudi Aramco – and won it in the beginning of 2009.

Dr Anas al-Hajji who wrote an article about this that year brought our attention to this. According to the article, American oil companies have previously filed lawsuits demanding hundreds of billions of dollars from Aramco, the Saudi oil company, and the Saudi government itself and demanding to drop sovereign immunity from lawsuits.

This required gathering testimonies from 15 oil producers, all of OPEC’s member countries except for Iran, and three more countries including Russia. Perhaps what many people do not know is that the victims of September 11 attacks had previously filed lawsuits and there has been an agreement to establish a compensation fund that involves American airline companies which were used in the attacks. More than three years later, and following hundreds of US Congressional hearing sessions, $7 billion were paid to them and around $2 million to the family of each victim.

Therefore, we must put the Congress’ JASTA decision within the context of events and practices there and must tackle it accordingly. There is a long list of bad circumstances which have led to the current situation. Saudi Arabia is the victim of its negative image and is being targeted by its rivals. Local extremists have tarnished its reputation and, above all this, there is the greediness of lawyers who benefit the most from the funds collected.

Add to all that, there is the American government’s negative stance against Saudi Arabia as it did not care much about confronting the law from the very beginning. However, despite all these difficulties, which Saudi Arabia is confronting, it can legally and politically challenge these lawsuits thanks to its major relations and interests inside the US itself.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 03, 2016.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.