Sunday, April 17, 2016

Too entangled to cut off

The kind of people who lap up Davos elite chatter are probably very excited about the New York Times story saying that Saudi Arabia threatened to dump its entire holdings of US government bonds if the Congress passes an amendment to the sovereign immunity law which allows lawsuits against sovereign governments for complicity in terrorism on US soil -- the intent is to cover 9/11 lawsuits against Saudi Arabia.

The problem is that even with President Obama's evident disillusionment with Saudi Arabia, as expressed in the Jeffrey Goldberg Atlantic interviews, there's not much willingness in Washington DC to do much about it, as Obama himself is signalling by being in Riyadh next week,

Let's go back again to that amendment which is apparently so harmful to Saudi Arabia. The photo above (via Saudi Press Agency) is Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), meeting King Salman 2 weeks ago. Senator Graham is among the co-sponsors of this bill. If there really was any chance of it passing, would either side be displaying a cordial meeting of this sort with such a rupture imminent?

And in a classic weekend news dump, the Saudi Ministry of Interior has announced that it is taking 9 Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainees into the softer version of its anti-terrorism program, among the many ironies thus being that these 9 Yemenis will be better off than most of their countrymen who are stuck in their home country.

In short, US-Saudi relations aren't going anywhere. There might be a bit more Mutually Assured Cynicism than in the past, but each side still needs the other just enough to make the alternatives worse.

UPDATE: Graham's farcical position on the Senate sovereign immunity bill is that having originally sponsored it, he then opposed it (helping explain the polite reception in Riyadh), but now that he's safely out of Riyadh, he might go back to his original position!

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