A top state-linked Saudi media figure has warned that imposing US sanctions on Riyadh in response to the Khashoggi crisis could lead to Russia opening a military base in the kingdom.
The general manager of a Saudi-state-owned media company published an op-ed Sunday suggesting that if the U.S. imposes sanctions in response to the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the situation will get so dire that Saudi Arabia would allow Russia to install a military base in the nation.
President Trump said Thursday that he is not considering halting the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia in light of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance and feared death. The president has ordered an investigation into the matter and there are no sanctions in place at the moment in response.
The Saudi government has denied involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, despite reports from the Turkish government that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia ordered a hit on the journalist. The Saudi government rejected any threats of retaliation from the U.S. on Sunday, claiming it would respond with "greater action" if the U.S. decides to make a move.
The journalist was last seen the afternoon of Oct. 2 entering the Saudi mission. Turkish officials believe Khashoggi was murdered inside the embassy, where he was to fill out paperwork for his wedding, and have told U.S. officials they have audio and video evidence to prove it.
The controversy has played out as the Turkish government released American pastor Andrew Brunson who was held in the country for two years, sparking a yearslong diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and Turkey. The successful release of Brunson has put the situation in Saudi Arabia and the United States' ongoing relationship in the national spotlight.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said his government has "nothing to hide."
While the Saudi government is denying it, general manager of the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel Turki Aldakhil wrote an op-ed Sunday that said if the U.S. responses aggressively, the Saudi government "will stab its own economy to death." He warns that the government will cause oil prices to surge, driving the nation to a state where they allow Russia to install a military base that would put the Middle East at the whims of Iran.
"The information circulating within decision-making circles within the kingdom have gone beyond the rosy language used in the statement," Aldakhil wrote. "There are simple procedures, that are part of over 30 others, that Riyadh will implement directly, without flinching an eye if sanctions are imposed."
There are pressures on the administration from within Congress to act.
If Saudi Arabia is responsible for the disappearance of Khashoggi, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., believes the U.S. must act fast to punish its Middle East ally.
"They're going to buy [weapons] in the future. When you want to influence Saudi behavior on another topic, you're not going to have anything to threaten them with or hold over their heads. It isn't about the money," Rubio said. "I don't know [if] the president had just been briefed, that's how he used to express it, but bottom line is, the money — there's not enough money to the world to buy back our credibility on human rights. If we do not move forward and take swift action on this, if — in fact, if and when — it's proven to be true."
Major investors have walked back ties to the crown prince and are cutting business relationships with the nation.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has received a great deal of pressure about his intention to attend an economic conference in Saudi Arabia. The secretary said Friday that he was still planning on going, but on Sunday White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Mnuchin is second-guessing that decision.