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US bill allowing families to sue foreign governments accomplishes little - Experts
September 17, 2016, 8:11 am
Former US Ambassador to Kuwait Richard LeBaron

The US Congress recently passed a bill that would allow families of those killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks to sue foreign governments for any role in the plot.
 Experts say that the legislation accomplishes very little and will dampen the US' relationship with important allies.
 "The unfortunate part about a bill like this is that it's easy for congressmen to pass it.

The actual prospect of it brewing any satisfaction to the families of 9/11 victims is very small. The only real satisfaction will be for lawyers who may spend years chasing false leads," Former US Ambassador to Kuwait Richard LeBaron told KUNA.

President Barack Obama has maintained that he will immediately veto the bill primarily due to concerns that it would weaken the US’ relationship with Saudi Arabia.
 LeBaron, now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, agrees with Obama and said the bill portrays that the US views the Arab and Islamic world as an enemy.

It's important to not overreact to it yet and to see how it can play out. It can complicate foreign policy with the Saudis but I hope it doesn’t turn out to a full blown crisis and I don’t see any reason for it to," he asserted.
 Paul Salem, Vice President for Policy and Research at the Middle East Institute speculated that Saudi Arabia feels the US has  softened’ on issues like Iran and has the Kingdom feeling "vulnerable".

"The relationship has been troubled by many things, nevertheless it remains solid. It is mainly defined by the executive branch (President) and Saudi Arabia, rather than by Congress," he told KUNA.
 Since the bill is unlikely to become law while Obama is president, some countries are still concerned with how the next president might approach the bill once inaugurated in January.

"They know more about what they would expect from a Clinton administration. A Trump administration for them, like it is for many other people, is a very big unknown, but they know to be concerned," said Salem.

For this bill in particular since it will be vetoed by this administration it would be by Clinton as well. But if it is passed again under a Trump administration it is quite possible that it would come into play," he added.

However, Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Council on US-Arab Relations Dr John Duke Anthony does not think the legislation will have any lasting effects.

"This kind of harassment, media grabbing, money grubbing, phenomenon has been going on for 16 years...With all the pressing events on the international stage, I can’t see this changing anything profoundly," he told KUNA.

"Greed doesn’t seem to have a tombstone and people will forever seemingly come up with creative or in their mind gimmicks, devices, tricks, so I don't think it (legislation of this nature) will die," Anthony added.

Although Obama has pledged to veto the text, it has strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate who may override the president’s action.

Some of Obama’s strongest democratic allies from New York led the legislation and say there is a "moral imperative" for victims’ families to seek justice. If the veto is overridden it would be the first time Congress has ever been able to do so since Obama became president.

The White House has also argued that passing the bill would break the sovereign immunity laws and would subject the US to being sued by other countries.

"It’s not hard to imagine other countries using this law as an excuse to haul US diplomats or US service members, or even US companies, into courts around the world," said White House Spokesperson Josh Earnest in a news briefing.
Nonetheless, the issue has put the president in an awkward position forcing him to pick between supporting 9/11 victims or the Saudi government.

Many governments, particularly in the Gulf region, have criticized the bill citing its inconsistency with the principle of sovereign immunity granted under the UN Charter.

Source: KUNA

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