The US is sending some kind of message to the Saudis, as Congress votes overwhelmingly by 348-76 (well above the two-thirds majority needed for an override) to reject Obama’s veto of the bill allowing relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, the first veto override of Obama’s eight-year-long presidency.
The Senate had earlier opposed the veto by 97-1, so the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” now becomes law.
As it is money is fast running out for the Kingdom. The 32.5 million bpd production “limit” that OPEC have just agreed will not hold oil prices in the mid-forties for very long.
The strikes of foreign hospital workers in Saudi Arabia, who have been unpaid for seven months, follow the complaints of those in work camps far out in the desert that they are no longer even receiving supplies of food and electricity, let alone salaries.
Now for the first time financial cuts are hitting public sector workers who are Saudi citizens, 70 per cent of whom work for the government. So far the austerity is limited with lower bonuses and overtime payments and a 20 per cent reduction in the salaries of ministers, though those close to political power are unlikely to be in actual need.
Some $120 billion, or half of Saudi government spending, went on salaries, wages and allowances in 2015. But with a Saudi budget deficit of $100 billion, the haemorrhage of cash will neither be sustainable nor possible to rein in. Construction companies like Oger and Binladen that are the backbone of the Saudi economy are not getting paid and are owed billions of US dollars.
Meanwhile, the war in Yemen drags on – a war that Mohamed bin Salman can only stop at his peril, since the power of the Saudi clan both internally and externally depends on a victory.