As global pressure mounts on Saudi Arabia to hold the kingdom responsible over the fate of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a new report indicates that Riyadh is preparing a list of countermeasures, including reconciliation with Iran, to push back against possible punishments.
Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya news network reported Sunday that the kingdom’s officials had thought of “over 30 measures” as part of their preventive plan.
The report, written by the network’s General Manager Turki Aldakhil, stated: “Imposing any type of sanctions on Saudi Arabia by the West will cause the kingdom to resort to other options.”
Iran realignment, warmer Russia ties
Aldakhil warned that his country would even consider giving a military base to Russia in Tabuk, northwest of Saudi Arabia, a strategic area near Syria, Israel, Lebanon and Iraq.
“At a time where Hamas and Hezbollah have turned from enemies into friends, getting this close to Russia will lead to a closeness to Iran and maybe even a reconciliation with it,” he added.
The report came shortly after US President Donald Trump said Riyadh would suffer “severe consequences” if it turned out that it was behind the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi is believed to have been murdered by the Riyadh regime’s death squads after entering the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul on October 2.
Driving up oil prices
Besides realignment with Iran, Saudi Arabia would react by manipulating oil prices, doing away with major US weapons deals and reconsidering its intelligence ties with Washington, the report added.
“It will not be strange that Riyadh would stop buying weapons from the US. Riyadh is the most important customer of US companies, as Saudi Arabia buys 10 percent of the total weapons that these US companies produce, and buys 85 percent from the US army, which means what’s left for the rest of the world is only five percent; in addition to the end of Riyadh’s investments in the US government, which reaches $800 billion.”
“If US sanctions are imposed on Saudi Arabia, we will be facing an economic disaster that would rock the entire world. Riyadh is the capital of its oil, and touching this would affect oil production before any other vital commodity. It would lead to Saudi Arabia’s failure to commit to producing 7.5 million barrels. If the price of oil reaching $80 angered President Trump, no one should rule out the price jumping to $100, or $200, or even double that figure,” Aldakhil warned
Trump says while he would “punish” Riyadh if it is found guilty in Khashoggi’s case, he still wouldn’t throw away massive arms deals that he has signed with the regime, because that would push Riyadh towards Russia and China.
Earlier on Sunday, the AFP quoted an unnamed Saudi source as saying that Riyadh would not hesitate to respond to any hostile measure taken against it over Khashoggi’s case.
“The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats or attempts to undermine it whether through threats to impose economic sanctions or the use of political pressure,” the source told Saudi Arabia’s official SPA news Agency, adding that Riyadh would “respond to any action with a bigger one.”
“The Kingdom also affirms 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 source continued.
Khashoggi’s case has already taken a toll on Saudi stocks, which in the early trading of Sunday plunged 7.0 percent in what became the biggest drop since December 2014.
Analysts warn that the controversy surrounding Khashoggi’s fate could trigger a financial crisis, imperiling Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s ambitious economic reform drive.
From tech tycoons to media giants, a host of Western companies are now distancing themselves from the kingdom.
Business barons, including British billionaire Richard Branson and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, as well as media powerhouses like Bloomberg and CNN, have pulled out of next week’s Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh, dubbed “Davos in the Desert.”
US, international action inevitable: Analyst
Meanwhile, Rodney Martin, a political analyst based in Los Angeles, told Press TV that the threats from Saudi Arabia were a “desperate” gesture to imply that Riyadh had the power to turn the table at will.
“The Saudis have long been on thin ice from a geopolitical point of view and then internally,” he said, arguing that even bin Salman’s warm ties with Washington were not going to prevent the Riyadh regime’s downfall.
The former congressional staffer argued that faced with increasing pressure inside and outside of the US, Trump had no other option than taking punitive measure against the Saudis.
“It’s time for the US to discontinue this relationship and disband the regime in Riyadh” and re-engage with Iran, the analyst concluded.