Much at stake in US-Saudi relations after disputed death of journalist

World Today

International skepticism is mounting over the explanation given by Saudi Arabia about the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Turkey’s President said he will announce details of their investigation on Tuesday, as investigators continue searching for a body. Analysts are wondering how Khashoggi’s death will affect U.S.-Saudi relations.

CGTN’s Michal Bardavid reports.

Follow Michal Bardavid on Twitter @michal_bardavid

On October 2 Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul but he never came out, and the Saudis now admit he was killed inside the building that day.

The Saudi family and, in particular, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, known as MBS, claimed they had no knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi, despite reports from Turkey that he was murdered.

More than two weeks after his disappearance, Saudi officials now say a fight broke out which resulted in the journalist’s death.

The government says 18 Saudis have been arrested and five top officials fired, but there has been no mention of MBS’ involvement.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday appeared to accept the Saudi explanation as credible.

When it comes to U.S. and Saudi relations, there is a lot at stake.

U.S. officials, especially President Trump, have emphasized that Saudi Arabia is a significant strategic ally. Trump has stated the U.S. has arms and trade deals worth billions with the Saudis, and that cutting ties with could cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

Saudi Arabia’s oil resources also provide the kingdom with a lot of power.

As the world’s biggest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia has openly used oil as a threat.

“Saudi Arabia hasn’t done this yet, but if it went to a limitation on petrol production, we could witness a significant price hike in oil,” political economist Ozan Sakar said. “This would create inflation pressure in the world, and this is Saudi Arabia’s biggest leverage.”

Saudi Arabia is also a key strategic partner of the U.S. when it comes to global security concerns, in particular Iran.

“Under the Trump administration, he has really made Saudi the center of the U.S. campaign to try and isolate Iran,” political analyst Gareth Jenkins said. “The Saudis have been working very closely with the U.S. to try and persuade people in the region, not to cooperate with Iran and try to isolate Iran.”

Turkish officials have been conducting their own investigation into Khashoggi’s death, including searches within the consulate.