9/11 law sparks intense Saudi media backlash
Saudi Arabia’s state-controlled media have launched an intense rash of news articles against the United States and the new federal law that allows Americans to sue Riyadh over the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.Some columns are particularly harsh coming from a U.S. ally, expressing anti-Semitic ideas and images and accusing the U.S. of a history of atrocities.
Saudi writers have revived conspiracy theories that the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were carried about by the U.S. government or Israel and the Jews. They accuse Washington of creating terrorism as an excuse to kill people and advocate pulling away from the close security arrangement with the U.S.
The articles call for the creation of a “superfund” that would bankroll reprisal lawsuits from Saudi Arabia and other countries against the United States.
“These are all government-controlled,” said Steven Stalinsky, who directs the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which compiled the report on the Saudi press barrage. “They will never write anything critical of the Saudi government, royal family. If they have a disagreement with any of the papers, they will fire the editor or writer.”
The Obama administration has sought to preserve close ties with the oil-rich kingdom, approving huge arms sales and providing support for Riyadh’s sometimes erratic air war against Shiite rebels in neighboring Yemen, where the U.S. is fighting al Qaeda militants operating in the country. President Obama, a strong defender of Islam, was photographed bowing when he met Saudi King Abdullah in 2009.
Overall, both Democratic and Republican administrations have viewed the Persian Gulf nation, for all the bilateral tensions, as a key check against violent Salafi jihadi groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State. But events on Capitol Hill last month badly shook the relationship.
The House and Senate passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act by wide margins on Sept. 28. Mr. Obama vetoed the measure, citing the principle of sovereign immunity as well as the fear of the kinds of reprisals that the Saudi press is now encouraging. But Congress, saying they were acting in support of the families of 9/11 victims seeking justice, overrode the veto. It was the first Obama veto in eight years that was not sustained by lawmakers.