Saturday, September 10, 2016

US “sue Saudis for 911 law” would be a geopolitical tectonic shift because…

New law approved by Congress on September 9 violates international law, would destabilize the US regime

By Denis G. Rancourt

We live in particularly unstable and dangerous times. The US behemoth is forced to adjust to an increasingly multipolar world, as Eurasia and alliances such as BRICS coalesce.

The coup in Brazil, tripling US expenditures for suppression in Latin America, Israel’s frantic genocidal pace, the NATO build up to intimidate Russia, Syria’s miracle resistance against US-desired “regime change”, Trump’s nationalistic impulses, and a Philippine president’s angry words… are all signs of the changing world.

The US regime did not need a domestic crisis that threatens its geopolitical posture, but it certainly deserves one.

I don’t mean pipeline resistance or Black Lives Matter. Those can be bulldozed and bought out without much difficulty. And the occupying police gang is not about to be displaced by any rival. No, I mean the “sue Saudis for 911 law” crisis: a real shit-could-hit-the-fan doozy.

Let me explain. For this, I need to present the following elements: Relevant international law concepts, present US law that violates the state immunity principle, characteristics of the new “sue Saudis for 911 law”, and the three reasons that this lawmakers’ project is a threat to the US regime.

In international law there are a few foundational principles that regulate the legal jurisdictions of states over their own affairs. Two of these principles are “state immunity” and “equality of sates”. States have immunity, except through agreed-upon binding treaties and conventions between states. Otherwise, the entire notion of sovereign states falls apart and we have the “law of the strongest” and chaos and war, without any international norms.

Until 2012, the US was the only state in the world to unilaterally enact a domestic law that expressly violates the international law of state immunity, which is anchored in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that entered into force in 1964. The US law in question is section 1605A of the United States Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, which deprives select “listed” states of immunity against US civil litigation for alleged support for terrorism.

The US section-1605A “list” has included select states that resist the US “regime change” campaigns in the Middle East (Iran, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan) but does not include US allies Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or Israel. Thus the US law unilaterally violates state immunity, equality of states, and state sovereignty, and also disregards the US’s own ratification of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (Article 20 requires strict observance of “the principles of sovereign equality and territorial integrity of States and that of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other States”).

To be clear, state immunity does not mean that states are not liable for support of terrorism or for wars. It only means that states are immune from legal jurisdiction predation, of the type practiced in section 1605A.

In 2012, Canada, acting as a sycophant state to its US master, enacted its own domestic law in explicit violation of international law: the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act (JVTA), with amendments to the State Immunity Act (SIA). Thus Canada acquired the distinction of being the second state in the world to give itself the illegal licence to disregard state immunity against foreign civil litigation. Canada’s “list” contains solely Iran and Syria. Canada achieved this feat by disregarding democratic rules and tradition via an “omnibus bill” machination introduced by the former harper government and not corrected by the Trudeau government, which seems in no rush to follow international law. [1]

The “sue Saudis for 911 law” is a new beast, in many regards. I doubt it will survive the inevitable presidential veto, because the post-veto lobbying by the administration, which more directly represents the uncorrupted intent of the US military complex, will be intense and “educational”. The new law (now Bill S. 2040, approved by Congress on September 9th) would become section 1605B of the United States Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act: “§ 1605B. Responsibility of foreign states for international terrorism against the United States”.

The many US civil lawsuits against Iran, pursuant to section 1605A, have resulted in default rulings (Iran does not defend itself because that could be seen as abandonment of its immunity) for billions of dollars, but these cannot be enforced because Iran does not have assets in the US. Not so for Saudi Arabia… That’s one difference.

Another difference is that US lawmakers could not simply add Saudi Arabia to the section-1605A list because this list is controlled by the executive branch. US lawmakers also could not explicitly name Saudi Arabia in their new law because that would make the US truly a laughing stalk, no pretence. You know, this little legal principle that the law must apply equally to all…, which the US obliquely disregards with its “list”…, equality of states and all that inconvenience for any rogue superpower.

It is also of note that the new law gives legal standing solely to “nationals of the United States” (see S. 2040, at § 1605B (c)). Tourists and visitors and diplomats targeted on US soil would not access the new (il)legal cause of action.

So, the pressure of families of 911 victims and the desires of lawmakers to make “no-risk” public-approval points, appear to have given the president’s office a major headache. The result is a law that would bulldoze right through all sovereign immunity from civil litigations for allegations of support of terrorism. Any country could be targeted by US litigants and their fortune-seeking lawyers.

The new law provides that the executive branch can stay the proceedings by unlimited repeated 180-day periods (see S. 2040, Sec. 5 (c)), but such stays would only highlight political interference and infuriate victim family members.

What a mess. One additional thing is clear. There is no way such a law, directly concerning the Middle East, would have been passed by lawmakers if AIPAC opposed it as harmful to Israel’s interests. I conclude that Israel wants this. Israel is happy to take down its main competitor for top US thug in the Middle East by as many notches as possible. Israel would be happy to dictate US Middle East policy even more than it does already.

More importantly, from the perspective of the superpower, this new law, in the long term, would not just be reckless in terms of increasing Israeli influence, it would also be destabilizing of the empire itself, via three mechanisms.

First, passage of the new law would alienate Saudi Arabia significantly, and this impact would be multiplied with every new lawsuit and every mention in the media of any such lawsuit. This kind of alienation, when sufficient elements accumulate, causes an ally to look at other influential players in the region, such as the Russia-China-Iran-Syria-Iraq-Afghanistan-Yemen resistance against US-Israel hegemony. As such, collaborations and agreements start to occur with the competing block, and the ally’s behaviour becomes less ideologically monochromic and more diversified. A good example is that of Turkey following the recent CIA-NATO-condoned or orchestrated failed coup. It does not help that Saudi Arabia knows that the US Israel lobby must have accompanied the US lawmaking project.

Second, a main utility of the section 1605A lawsuits against Iran is what I have called “propaganda by statute”, where a statute (law) allows lawsuits against a foreign state in order to generate negative propaganda against the state via both the connections of the complaining litigants and the media reports about the lawsuits and court rulings. In this way, Iran can be demonized, which paves the way for a direct war of aggression against the Iranian society. This mass crime, along the lines of the US slaughters in Iraq and Libya, is overtly contemplated by US planners and US war mongering politicians. Every such mass crime caries the risk of being seen for what it is, thus the need for propaganda, both domestic and among Western allies. [1][2]

In the case of the new “sue Saudis for 911 law”, the propaganda by statute backfires since the US public would constantly be reminded that the principal US ally Saudi Arabia is a regime that funds terror, even against its allies. US weapons sales to Saudi Arabia could be jeopardized by domestic political reactions; which is a main mechanism to transfer Saudi oil revenues to the US, while propping up the US arms industry. A domino effect of “negative” consequences could be unleashed.

Third, the US would have completely trashed the principle of state immunity from civil litigation, no small feat in the realm of the rule of law. No doubt US lawyers are motivated by the search for justice, and no doubt US judges are among the sharpest and most principled legal minds, but the thought of US civil courts having jurisdiction to make unlimited pecuniary awards against one’s nation on the basis of circumstantial allegations, before a US jury’s evaluation of the “balance of probabilities”, would be repugnant to many politicians around the world. This would have a real potential to start a war of jurisdictions and of court rulings. It also causes a significant meltdown of international law.

The later point is not insignificant. As the competing economic and military blocks emerge, the US needs a positive image, if not among the bombed peoples of the world, at least among leaders of a majority of the states that are its allies. The US murder campaigns in Iraq and Libya, and the terrorist and refugee backlash that were generated, has eroded US image and credibility. Israel is trying to sell itself as the greatest force for good against the wave of radicalism created by US war campaigns but this will not be enough to completely save the US and Israel world reputations among Western leaders. The fiasco of dissolving state immunity would not help.

In conclusion, there is no way the US bosses can let this law come into effect. If the law is enacted, then that will be a sign that the US is unraveling.


[1] “Canada has no lesson to give on human rights when it kills aboriginals: Canadian professor”, September 10, 2016.

[2] The other thing that should be said is that any population or state that is terrorized by a conventional technologically advanced army, and that does not have a comparable army, can only resort to low-tech acts of deterrence, in self-defence against a committed invader or occupier. The so-called “anti-terrorism laws” conveniently define terrorism such as to include the typical acts that are the only deterrence possible for asymmetrically attacked populations while excluding all the acts of state-run and state-funded military aggressions. The attacking states then go on to aggressively prosecute select acts of “terrorism”, while not prosecuting their own acts of war and war crimes, not to mention the collective punishments of economic sanctions.

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