Saudis in tough spot with suspicions, possible sanctions

Monday, October 22, 2018
J.M. Phelps (

Saudi consulate in Istanbul (entrance)Suspected of ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman faces the onslaught of potential economic, military, and political ramifications.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 23), Saudi Arabia is set to host "Davos in the Desert" – or what is more professionally known as the Future Investment Initiative. The three-day summit would potentially bring foreign investments into Saudi Arabia and help diversify its economy.

As part of the Vision 2030 project, economic diversity and long-term investments would provide alternatives to the current Saudi economy, which relies heavily upon their primary investment: petroleum. However, the highly publicized death of Jamal Khashoggi – confirmed by the Saudis on Friday – leaves dozens around the world quickly abandoning the initiative(Image: Front entrance to Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul)

Long-term implications may follow Khashoggi's death, as many have assumed there was a Saudi connection. Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis (USA-Ret.) agrees, suspecting there was "a Saudi connection." The national security analyst doesn't know if anyone can "necessarily pinpoint the Crown Prince as the culprit," but – like so many others – he would not be surprised.


"It's an inconvenient and embarrassing situation where clandestine operations that suit a country's leadership happen," Maginnis tells OneNewsNow – and with compassion, he adds "it's terrible if it's all true what they did," and he believes the U.S. should take action to demonstrate its displeasure.

However, he explains, "we should not be surprised because this sort of activity – in a clandestine way – happens all across the world." Maginnis suggests "it's only in countries such as the United States where the rule of law prevails and we look askance at [a circumstance] like this. It is, unfortunately, the nature of how governments behind the veil often behave."

Maginnis believes the Trump administration has several options. Economically, he believes the U.S. "can impose sanctions on the Saudis, individually; or as entities, organizations, and so forth." He suggests this would be the easiest way to address the incident, "if we have strong suspicion or actual evidence that Khashoggi was killed, for example, by the security apparatus of the Crown Prince."

Militarily, "we could always tear up the arms deal," he continues. "The Saudis, in turn, could easily find arms suppliers like China or Russia." They would be reluctant to do so, according to Maginnis, as "our weapons tend to be much higher quality and we have a long-term relationship with the Saudis, as well."

Maginnis acknowledges that reducing U.S. support to Riyadh "in terms of their intervention in Yemen" is a possibility.

"Of course," he discloses, "they depend upon our intelligence work with them and depend on our arms with them." It's a viable option, but it's also "an indirect attack on Iran because we depend upon the Saudis to push back up against the Iranians which we have no love lost to the point."

Politically, "even if the president doesn't take strong action," Maginnis expresses, "there is always the chance that a bipartisan group of members of Congress can pass legislation and, in fact, overcome a presidential veto if the president doesn't want to proceed in that direction."

"I know the likes of Senator Lindsey Graham and others have made very clear that they blame the Saudi government and, by name, Mohammed bin Salman [MBS] as the culprit here," shares Maginnis. "They may have evidence of that fact and therefore they can proceed."

Maginnis also stresses the importance to "keep in mind the mixed message here is that MBS has been somewhat against the Wahhabism, which of course, is what seeded the attacks on 9/11 against U.S. and is very problematic in that part of the world as well as elsewhere in the world."

He believes Salman "wants to bring his regime – his father's regime – into the modern world with women driving, more liberal interpretations, diversification of their economy, and so forth."

"These are all things I think we would all applaud, and certainly not his alleged behavior," Maginnis surmises. "These things are important. These are all issues of some gravity for the Saudis and for us, particularly our geopolitical reputation around the world and in the Middle East." Notably, "the Saudis have been very cooperative in pushing back against Iran, which undoubtedly is a threat against them but is also a threat against us," Maginnis concludes.

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