The US Congress’ decision to overturn President Obama’s veto and passing the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) will have lasting repercussions for its diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. What this does is open old wounds in the hearts of those that lost their family members in the tragedy, and open new ones in the US-Saudi alliance, not to mention the other Gulf States that will also likely take this as an affront.

Even if this law is passed, the verdict of the cases lodged under this might not be in the favour of US families, as there is no evidence to support the theory that the Saudi state was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Perhaps the reason for the overwhelming support for this bill in both houses was prompted by the fear to not vote on the wrong side of such an emotional issue in election year.

The most problematic aspect of this law is that it grants an exception to sovereign immunity in cases of terrorism on US soil– a legal principle by ‘which a state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution’. This opens up entirely new dimensions to international law, and the Obama administration was rightly concerned that other countries could retaliate by passing broader immunity waivers in the case of the US. This could mean lawsuits against the US for all of its acts as global policeman and more.

The US Congress seems hell-bent on turning its staunchest allies into enemies, and if that is its policy, then good luck to its members. These bills only reflect an amateur self-sabotaging mindset on part of the US; breaking the age-old alliance with Saudi Arabia could result in billions being pulled out of the US economy (estimates of Saudi assets in the US economy vary between $500 billion to $1 trillion), decreased investment by the other gulf states, limiting US access to strategically important military bases and a potential roll-back of counter-terrorism operations. Burning all these bridges to appease the voter base, even while realising the damage it could cost is very disingenuous on the part of US lawmakers, and should be realised as such.