UAE tycoon Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor has criticised the passing by the US Congress of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), saying it is "another nail in the coffin" of US-GCC relations.
The US Senate and House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve the legislation that will allow the families of those killed in the 2001 attacks on the United States to seek damages from the Saudi government.
Riyadh has always dismissed suspicions that it backed the attackers, who killed nearly 3,000 people under the banner of Islamist militant group al-Qaeda. Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
Al Habtoor claimed the JASTA move was part of a policy shift by the US targeting its long-term ally Saudi Arabia rather than the threat posed by Iran.
In a speech made to the 25th Annual Arab-US Policymakers Conference in Washington DC, Al Habtoor said: “The passing by US Congress of JASTA is another nail in the coffin of US-GCC relations. The future Iraq is seeing it as an opportunity to claim compensation from the US invasion, and abuses committed by American forces, and Saudi could consider passing a similar bill.”
The Dubai-based businessman also told the audience that the next US President needs to be someone "who can take tough decisions". Although Al Habtoor did not name his preferred candidate he referred to Donald Trump in May as "very dangerous to the world".
US voters go to the polls to elect their new leader to succeed President Barack Obama on November 8.
Al Habtoor said the next US administration needs to decide who its friends are in the Middle East.
“The GCC countries have been good friends to America yet the US government is leaning nowadays in favour of Iran. This is a cause of concern. Iran is the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism. A truth that the US seems to forget for its own interests.”
He added: “You may ask what right do I have as an Arab, a non-American citizen, to pass comment on your future leader… I have the right, because whoever gets into the White House affects everybody. The entire world. The new President’s policies will either empower our enemies or weaken them.”
Al Habtoor said: “Iran’s intentions are clear. It wants to be the dominant player in the region. And it is getting its wish with the help of the US and other western nations. Rather than focusing on Iran, and getting rid of its evils, the US is targeting its long-time ally Saudi Arabia.”
He also pledged $20 million of his own money to kick-start a global initiative to combat poverty alleviation. “If we join hands together, we will be strong enough to dismantle terrorism in the Middle East, and the world. It is a fact that poor countries have significantly higher terrorism rates. Terrorism plays on poverty.”
In May Al Habtoor described US presidential candidate Donald Trump as a "loose cannon", saying US-Arab relations would deteriorate if he was elected.
The comments of Al Habtoor, chairman and founder of Dubai-based Al Habtoor Group, came after Trump last year drew criticism in the Arab world over his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the US.
Al Habtoor, who initially described Trump’s candidacy as “a breath of fresh air” retracted his comments in November 2015 and went on to brand him "the biggest enemy of Islam".For all the latest GCC news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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