Saudi Arabia said Sunday it will respond in kind to threats against it after President Donald Trump’s warning of “severe punishment” over the alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi response came after the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh dropped by 7 percent during the week’s first day of trading, with 182 of its 186 listed stocks showing losses.
Both Trump and the Saudi kingdom are under increasing pressure to resolve the controversy arising from the fate of Khashoggi who hasn’t been seen since he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd.
The statement issued by the government of Saudi Arabia said:
“The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether through economic sanctions, political pressure or repeating false accusations. The kingdom also affirms that if it is targeted by any action, it will respond with greater action.”
There was no indication of what “greater action” the Saudis have in mind, although as an oil exporting country and as a large buyer of American defense products, there are several possibilities.
Turkish officials say have audio and video recordings of Saudi assassins killing and dismembering Khashoggi after he entered their consulate. But the recordings have not been publicly released and the Saudis have called the allegations of murder “baseless.”
However the Saudis have also given no evidence that the veteran journalist ever left the consulate after he walked inside with his fiance waiting for him in a car.
In an interview with the CBS show “60 Minutes” Trump said that the consequences of Saudi Arabia being involved would be “severe.”
“There’s something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that was the case, so we’re going to have to see,” Trump said. “We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”
However, Trump also said: “As of this moment, they deny it and they deny it vehemently. Could it be them? Yes.”
After their stock market plunged on Sunday, Saudi government officials have had no comment. The Saudi state television did broadcast an interview with a stock analyst who blamed the market plunge on weakening markets in the United States.
It appears that Donald Trump was pressured into talking tough about Saudi Arabia because even Republicans in Congress are very unhappy about the alleged murder of Khashoggi. Initially he downplayed the controversy and mentioned that the U.S. is involved with weapons deals with Saudi Arabia that are in excess of $100 billion. Now, after the Saudis’ latest response, it is unclear what action the president will take next. Whatever he does we do know that he will be looking out for his own best interests instead of the country’s.