Saudi officials have granted Turkish authorities permission to inspect its consulate in Istanbul Monday, nearly two weeks after the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, CNN reported.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has threatened that if the U.S. imposes sanctions on it for Khashoggi’s death, it could retaliate by dramatically increasing the price of oil.
What happened to Jamal Khashoggi?
On Oct. 2, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in order to finalize his divorce. His fiancée was waiting outside. While he undoubtedly planned on exiting the building alive and free, Khashoggi was aware that the Saudi regime viewed him as persona non grata. He had frequently criticized the Saudi government and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his writings, including in his Washington Post column.
What happened next is still unclear. Khashoggi never walked out of the consulate building. Turkish authorities have claimed that they have evidence he was killed and that his body was later removed from the embassy.
U.S. officials reportedly said that they have reason to believe that the Saudis planned to kidnap him and take him back to Saudi Arabia. The crown prince has been known to ruthlessly punish those who oppose him or the state.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey will jointly conduct an “inspection” of the Saudi consulate. This inspection will take place 13 days after Khashoggi’s Oct. 2 disappearance, so it is unlikely that it will turn up any new information. This inspection will be point of a joint investigation agreed to by the leaders of Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has threatened retribution if the U.S. imposes sanctions
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia threatened that if the U.S. imposed any retaliatory measures on it as retribution for Khashoggi’s apparent death, it would respond with “stronger ones.” The head of the Saudi government-owned Arabiya news network, Turki Al Dakhil, wrote in an opinion piece: “If President Trump was angered by $80 oil, nobody should rule out the price jumping to $100 and $200 a barrel or maybe double that figure.”
The Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., later denied that this reflected the position of the government, Bloomberg reported.
Members of Congress have threatened to respond anyway
While President Donald Trump has not indicated if or how the U.S. will punish Saudi Arabia for its potential involvement in Khashoggi’s death and has also said that he will not cancel a $110 billion arms deal between the two countries, members of the U.S. Senate have taken a firmer stance.
Sen. Marco Rubio has said that he believes that “the Trump administration will do something,” but added that “if he doesn’t, Congress will, that, I can tell you, with 100 percent certainty.”
On Oct. 10, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and all but one of the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to Trump requesting that the U.S. slap sanctions on any “foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi.”
What does the Saudi royal family say?
President Trump tweeted Monday that he had sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and that the king had denied “any knowledge of whatever may have happened ‘to our Saudi Arabian citizen.’”
Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened “to our Saudi Arabian citizen.” He said that they are working closely with Turkey to find answer. I am immediately sending our Secretary of State to meet with King!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 15, 2018
During a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday, Trump said that if the Saudis had done “something really terrible and disgusting,” then “there will be severe punishment.” During the same interview he defended the arms deal, saying that he “did not want to hurt jobs” by canceling it.
However, Trump on Monday also cited a theory posed by King Salman during a phone call between the two leaders on Monday, which speculated that Khashoggi may have been murdered by “rogue killers.”
“It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers, who knows. We are going to try to get to the bottom of it very soon,” Trump said, adding that Salman had given him a “flat denial.”
The rogue killers theory could potentially give the Saudi royal family plausible deniability, if conclusive evidence emerges to implicate them in his murder.