Saudi Arabia Threatens to Retaliate After U.S. Pressure Over Journalist’s Disappearance

By Margherita Stancati

Updated Oct. 14, 2018 9:11 a.m. ET

Saudi stocks tumble as investors worry about economic fallout amid worsening ties between the kingdom and the international community

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia—Saudi Arabia on Sunday threatened to retaliate against possible punitive measures a day after President Trump vowed “severe punishment” if an investigation proves that the kingdom was behind the suspected death of a prominent Saudi journalist.

The Saudi government said that, in the event that economic sanctions or other forms of punishment were imposed on the kingdom, “it will respond with greater action,” according to an official statement, which didn’t specifically mention the U.S. or any other country.

The statement also warned that the oil-rich kingdom “has an influential and vital role in the global economy.”

The comments marked Riyadh’s strongest response so far to mounting international pressure over the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Turkish authorities believe Mr. Khashoggi, a government critic, was killed by Saudi hit men inside the consulate, and claim they have video and audio evidence to prove it. Saudi Arabia has vehemently denied the allegation, saying Mr. Khashoggi left the consulate and dispatching a security team to Turkey to help the continuing investigation.

Despite the denials, the Saudi government remains under pressure to prove it did nothing wrong.

The Khashoggi episode is causing growing strains between the monarchy and its most important ally, the U.S.


·         Trump Vows ‘Severe Punishment’ if Saudi Arabia Implicated in Khashoggi Disappearance (Oct. 13)

·         Missing Journalist Was an Insider Willing to Cross Saudi Red Lines (Oct. 12)

·         Turkey Says Recordings Are Evidence of Saudi Journalist’s Killing (Oct. 11)

·         Mr. Trump, in an interview with “60 Minutes,” said he would be “very upset and angry” if the allegations prove true, and vowed there would be consequences. But he also said he opposed sanctions against the U.S. ally because it may hurt jobs in the U.S. tied to a $100 billion arms deal with the kingdom.

Capitol Hill has been pressuring the Trump administration to rethink its close partnership with the Saudi leadership in light of Mr. Khashoggi’s suspected killing. Bipartisan lawmakers have raised the possibility of halting arms sales and of imposing economic sanctions on the kingdom.

Saudi stocks tumbled Sunday as investors worried about the impact on its economy from worsening relations between the kingdom and the U.S. The Riyadh-based Saudi Stock Exchange’s benchmark Tadawul All Share Index closed 3.5% lower, after falling nearly 7% at one point in the session.

Write to Margherita Stancati at