The Strategist

Saudi Arabia answers to Western threats

10/15/2018 - 16:39

Riyadh promised to take serious measures against those who decide on sanctions against the kingdom. An official statement about this was made yesterday, the day after a statement of US President Donald Trump about "severe punishment" for Saudi Arabia, if it is proved that the authorities of this country are involved in disappearance of the famous Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. As more new details of the incident appear in the media, more and more officials and businessmen are refusing to cooperate with Saudi Arabia.

Iqbal Osman1 via flickr
Iqbal Osman1 via flickr
Yesterday, for the first time, Saudi Arabia officially responded to threats from Western politicians to impose economic sanctions against Riyadh in response to alledged murder of The Washington Post columnist, the famous Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Last time, the journalist was seen on October 2, when he entered the building of the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, to issue documents for a marriage with a Turkish citizen. His fate has been unknown since then.

“The Kingdom rejects any attempt to undermine its position, whether through threats of economic sanctions, political pressure or false accusations. They will not shake the kingdom, its stable positions in the Arab and Islamic world and in the international arena,” says an unnamed official in a statement published by the state news agency SPA. The source promised that if "they take any measures, the response will be even tougher." Saudi Arabia plays a leading role in the oil markets, and many countries, including the USA, are interested in investments from this country.

The statement was delivered the day after publication of excerpts from an interview with US President Donald Trump on CBS, where he promised "severe punishment" for the Saudi authorities, if their involvement in disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi is proved. Last week, US senators demanded that President decide whether to impose economic sanctions against Riyadh in accordance with the the Magnitsky Act." Apparently, the United Kingdom is considering similar measures in relation to Saudi law enforcement agencies and high-ranking politicians, judging by an article in The Independent. Threats of sanctions have already shaken the Saudi stock market. According to Reuters, on Sunday it fell by 7%, losing $ 33 billion.

However, despite the threats, Donald Trump, answering journalists' questions, said that the United States are not interested in breaking the military contracts with Riyadh. “If we did this, we would punish ourselves. There are other steps we can take, very, very powerful,” he said on Saturday. Washington does not want to lose Saudi orders and investments, thanks to which, according to the US President, 450 thousand jobs were created in the United States. Donald Trump stressed that so far there has been nothing definite in the investigation of the “Khashoggi case”.

At the same time, new details of the incident appear in the media. On Saturday, the Sabah newspaper reported that the Turkish authorities have a record of torture and murder of the journalist, obtained through the Apple Watch. It is alleged that Khashoggi turned on the microphone on his smart watch at the entrance to the consulate general. Allegedly, they synchronized with his iPhone, which the journalist left the bride, who was waiting for him at the entrance to the building. According to the newspaper, the Saudi secret service employees noticed the recording and deleted the file by making the journalist use the Touch ID function, but the data was already sent to the iPhone automatically. However, many experts doubt this version. Apple Watch does not have the Touch ID. In addition, the watch is synchronized with the iPhone via Bluetooth, and it can be done only at close range. But nevertheless, the special services may have a record of the murder, and the version with the phone is needed to cover wiretap or other sources of information.

Even the most loyal allies are now doubting cooperation with Riyadh. On Friday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC that he intends to participate in a major investment forum, the Future Investment Initiative, which is due to take place from 23 to 25 October in Riyadh. “If the information changes and something new appears, we will see what to do. But I plan to go,” he said. And on Sunday, the BBC announced that Steven Mnuchin and British Foreign Trade Minister Liam Fox could ignore the event. Under the pretext of changing plans, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, as well as representatives of large companies and media corporations, including Uber, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, Bloomberg, refused to attend the forum.