Saudi Arabia threatening to pull out assets is economic terrorism

Published: April 20, 2016

US President Barack Obama speaks with King Salman of Saudi Arabia during their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House. PHOTO: AFP

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in New York, it was revealed that 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Yet the country the United States immediately attacked in retaliation was Afghanistan. Later, they followed this up with an invasion of Iraq. It has been nearly 15 years and both wars are still on-going, and are estimated to have cost between $4 and $6 trillion.

While a response from the United States was certainly expected, after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil – in the country where the event was planned, it is curious that none of the hijackers were Afghan or Iraqi.

Imagine, say, that the hijackers had been Pakistani. Even if the attack had been masterminded in Afghanistan and not Pakistan, would the United States have not responded aggressively?

Yet, something interesting happened after the September 11 attacks. While the victims of the tragedy were still mourning, royal members of Saudi Arabia were quietly ushered out of the United States, some of whom had ‘links to 9/11’, under FBI supervision, on a private chartered plane.

One would think that at the very least, family members of a known terrorist would be questioned by the FBI, but no such thing.

“Two dozen members of Osama bin Laden’s family were urgently evacuated from the United States in the first days following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, according to the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

One of bin Laden’s brothers frantically called the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington looking for protection, Prince Bandar bin Sultan told The New York Times. The brother was sent to a room in the Watergate Hotel and was told not to open the door.

Most of bin Laden’s relatives were attending high school and college. The young members of the bin Laden family were driven or flown under FBI supervision to a secret place in Texas and then to Washington, The Times reported Sunday.”

This could be explained by the long running ‘special’ relationship the Bush family has with the Saudis monarchy:

“The Bush family has enjoyed a long connection with oil: George Bush bought an oil company in the 1950s and sold it, at a handsome profit, a decade later. His confidante and lifetime collaborator, James Baker, was similarly connected with oil, being a partner in Baker Botts, a big Houston law firm that represented oil-industry interests. When Bush began to put together his presidential team in 1978, it was based on a new political network in Houston, that of Big Oil (his son’s administration has taken this much further, nakedly representing the oil industry like never before). Not surprisingly, this slowly became enmeshed with Saudi interests, which, especially in the figure of Prince Bandar, a member of the royal family and for many years the Saudi ambassador to the US, slowly and painstakingly sought access to the American political elite – most successfully of all with the House of Bush. Prince Bandar, for long the central Saudi figure in the US, hugely rich on his own account, has been a close confidante of George Sr for two decades.”

The friendship continued when George J. took over, of course. But it runs especially deep because the two nations are (now not so) secret war allies:

“The US-Saudi relationship blossomed in the context of two crucial wars, both of which the US fought by proxy: the Iran-Iraq war and the Afghan war. The American administration was deeply concerned about the impact of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran –­ previously the US’s most powerful ally, Israel apart, in the Middle East.

It used Saddam Hussein, in strategy well detailed by Unger, as a means by which to counter the Iranian regime, secretly supplying him, for a decade or more, with weapons and cash. The Saudis – who effectively replaced Iran as America’s regional ally – were intimately involved in the intricacies of American policy, even coming to the aid of the Americans by secretly funding – at the Reagan administration’s request – the Contras in Nicaragua after Congress had blocked presidential support.”

The relationship was tested after September 11 when the Saudis threatened to pull out assets worth billions from the American economy.

Today, the Saudis are playing the same card once again:

“Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”

This is economic terrorism, pure and simple. But it should come as a surprise to no one. As Wikileaks cables reveal, Hillary Clinton has expressed weariness about Saudi links to terrorism. It also has been well documented that Saudi money has spread chaos across the world, especially in Pakistan, where let’s be honest, our politicians have sold the country without a second thought.

Not surprisingly:

“The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage, according to administration officials and congressional aides from both parties and the Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon. The officials have warned senators of diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.”

Countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and other neighbouring nations have paid a heavy debt for the September 11 attacks. The American people, who already suffered loss of life, have lost in trillions worth of taxpayer money.

But when will the Saudis pay? Chances are, never. Not as long as oil is thicker than blood.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sonya

    I don’t know when this mother source of global terrorism network of Saudi American will end… hope this ends soon.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Now Pakistanis will copy the tactic of ‘economic terrorism’ of their wahabbi masters but Pakistan does not have foreign economic assets(neither does it have domestic ones)Recommend

  • Jayman

    Saudis blow hot air. Without the US, Iran will eat them for lunch.Recommend

  • bilal

    Don’t quite understand the relevance of this article. At best its simplistic analysis. US can’t simply pass a bill prosecuting the Saudi Govt. when there’s no international precedent. We all know this is political arm-twisting between the two allies. They’re not just on best of terms right now. So why over simplify the situation.Recommend

  • Laskero

    Pakistan should be named a co-conspirator. Pakistani link is almost always present in most terror cases.Recommend

  • Guest

    It’s their money. They can do what they want with it.Recommend

  • Ghulam Lone

    Its an empty threat. Saudi’s only source of protection is the US and Pak, while Pak has shown it is not interested in Saudi Arabia’s misguided ambitions. That only leaves the US, and Saudi Arabia’s only leverage over the US is oil and investment. The US can now produce it’s own oil and gas, so Saudi money is all that they have left. They won’t pull out because they will lose leverage, and have no one left to protect them, except for clandestine help from Mossad and Israel since Saudi-Israel cooperation is an open secret these days.Recommend

  • Ghulam Lone

    America isnt the source of terrorism. The constant repetition of this phrase without any real verifiable evidence is just a sign of intellectual laziness. This isn’t the 1980s and the US isn’t terrorizing anyone other that radical jihadists in FATA.Recommend

  • Bigot Quasher

    Saudi wasted a tremendous opportunity to create a more sustainable and less oil dependent society. They are now again playing the hand that led to global terrorism and increased volatility. Their claim to the custodianship of Islam’s holy sites is rooted in safety and continuity of the rule by House of Saud and not based on the true spirit of Islam. The first round of Jehadi game damaged Pakistan, the encore would damage Turkey and the rest. Only America can help save the world from these bigots.Recommend

  • Parvez

    If the Saudi’s actually decide to sell ( which I doubt ) …. you can be rest assured that other Arab / non-Arab nations will be in line to buy, so I doubt it would really effect America.Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    Read carefully what Norman Ansar says. He says:
    Imagine, say, that the hijackers had been Pakistani. Even if the attack had been masterminded in Afghanistan and not Pakistan, would the United States have not responded aggressively?

    9/11 terror attack was planned in Pakistan. Khalid Sheikh was from Karachi. Asia Siddiqi and her connections to Khalid Sheikh is also known. One ISI General was here in US at the time of 9/11 attacks. His original schedule was to return back to Pakistan before 9/11 but extended his stay in US, probably to witness first hand the destruction.

    9/11 terrorists got some funding from a serving general of Pakistan’s ISI. Mot’d Atta had some leftover money, a small amount around $100, and he wired it back to the then serving ISI general via Western Union before embarking on his terrorist mission. When US was bombing Tora Bora caves in Afghanistan to eliminate Osama, it was Pakistan’s ISI that helped him escape to Pakistan. Had US killed Osama then, there would have been no US invasion of Afghanistan and Afghanistan would have been a peaceful and prosperous country today. Pakistan’s army and ISI were sheltering Osama for over 10 years near their army facility. They did not allow US to interview the widows of Osama or US to inspect the compound where Osama was staying. One US Stealth Helicopter went down during the raid on Osama. Pakistan allowed Chinese engineers and technicians to inspect this helicopter. The Chinese even scraped off the paint from the helicopter to reverse engineer the stealth technology and then came up with their own stealth helicopter. You can google for all these news items. US has a treasure trove of information from Osama’s computer disks that it seized during the raid on Osama. Very few of this information has been released. US knows a lot and exactly who are involved.

    Pakistan’s involvement with terrorism is as significant as or even a lot more than than Saudi involvement. Saudis may have funded, but Pakistan’s army and ISI have provided all services, such as planning, recruiting, providing logistics and also routing Saudi funds to the terrorists.Recommend

  • Deepak

    This is a very well written article!Recommend

  • Kamath

    Please correct me here! Is it not true it is the Arabs who civilized Persians by bringing in Islam.. Origins of Islamic civillization was bor in Arab lands starting from Meca and Medina, isn’t it correct ?Recommend

  • Jayman

    The Arabs had little culture while the Persians had a rich culture and were accredited with many contributions to mankind. The Arabs were barbaric and to this day, they remain so.Recommend