Published: Tue, October 16, 2018
Markets | By Erika Turner

Saudi Arabia vows to retaliate

Saudi Arabia vows to retaliate

President Donald Trump says he's spoken to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who "denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened" to missing Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, a Saudi national and United States resident who became increasingly critical of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has not been seen since he walked into the kingdom's Istanbul consulate to sort out marriage paperwork on October 2. People familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details said Larry Fink and Stephen Schwarzman, the heads of BlackRock and Blackstone, also backed out.

A Saudi official, not authorized to speak publicly, told Reuters that the king had ordered an internal investigation based on information from the joint team in Istanbul. "The denial was very, very strong", Trump told reporters.

With Trump now appearing to buy into theories about "rogue killers" being responsible, even while Ankara claims it possesses strong evidence of Riyadh's guilt, it seems certain that anyone expecting a strong USA response to Khashoggi's disappearance would be well advised to lower their expectations now.

Turkish and Saudi law enforcement officials started to conduct a joint inspection of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul yesterday as Daily Sabah went to press, almost two weeks after the disappearance of Khashoggi. The kingdom has called the allegations of foul play "baseless" but has offered no evidence the writer left the consulate.

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Speaking in Toronto Monday, Trudeau said Canada will not be silenced by human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia and its leader, Mohammad Bin Salman - the young crown prince who has sought to modernize his deeply religious country but has bristled at criticism from overseas. Democratic lawmakers criticized Trump for using the term "rogue killers".

The cleaning crew was seen entering the consulate shortly before Turkish investigators were set to arrive to carry out an "inspection" in search of additional evidence of who was behind the disappearance of Khashoggi, a frequent critic of the Saudi royal family. The president added in a tweet that he is dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "immediately" to meet with the King in person.

In other words: The Saudis' official defense is, reportedly, "We only wanted to torture and kidnap the dissident journalist, but the Crown Prince's friend got a little too enthusiastic, and accidentally killed him".

And President Donald Trump said he does not want to jeopardize a major arms sale deal to Saudi Arabia that he said was worth $110 billion, though defense experts have disputed that amount and have said it's hard to calculate precisely how many jobs would be at stake. We have seen Saudi Arabia killing Naser al-Sa'id in 1979 in Lebanon - he was kidnapped, taken back to Saudi Arabia and was killed. Germany, Britain and France issued a joint statement over the weekend expressing "grave concern" and calling for a credible investigation to ensure those responsible for the disappearance "are held to account".

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia warned that if it "receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the kingdom's economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy". "The Saudi government has said that they will not give in and take measures to retaliate against any pressure by the U.S. or other western countries".

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