Why haven’t Western sanctions been applied to Saudi Arabia yet? The oil-rich kingdom has admitted that dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered. It blames a “rogue operation” on the killing, which seems unlikely given that members of the 15-man hit squad that killed and dismembered Khashoggi were linked to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s security detail.

Even if it was a case of over-eager underlings trying to curry favour with their boss (“Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”) that doesn’t excuse things. Given the resources deployed and the seniority of agents who took part, the Saudi security apparatus must have been involved at the highest levels. The Crown Prince has absolute control over the military-security apparatus in Saudi Arabia, so he was either aware of the operation or he is dangerously inept.

So, why no sanctions? It appears US President Donald Trump is willing to accept Riyadh’s version of events. Other Western countries, including Canada (which was recently embroiled in a Twitter spat with Saudi Arabia over the detainment of human rights activists), are just as unable to countenance sanctions. If reports from the United Nations that the Saudi-led coalition may be perpetrating war crimes in Yemen didn’t sway them, why would the murder of a journalist in an embassy in Turkey tip them over the edge?

Are Western countries simply too dependent on Saudi oil? At a time when the price of oil is going up, would sanctions even be effective? Given how central Saudi Arabia is to the global oil market, many doubt it would be possible to isolate the kingdom economically.

Western countries are also clearly worried about cancelling contracts with Saudi Arabia (including multi-billion dollar arms contracts) because of the economic impact at home. Bluntly put: they don’t want jobs to be lost over this, they don’t want to lose access to the Saudi market, and they don’t want Saudi investment to dry up at precisely the moment when Riyadh is trying to diversify the country away from oil.

Saudi Arabia is also a vital strategic partner in a volatile region. The Khashoggi murder threatens the Saudi détente with Israel, it jeopardises US strategy towards Iran, it could make longstanding counterterrorism cooperation more complicated, and it could undermine regional stability.

Is the occasional gruesome murder of a dissident something we just have to learn to live with? Should we just accept it when Russian agents deploy a deadly nerve agent on foreign soil (resulting in “collateral damage” in the form of the death of a British citizen). Or when the Chinese government “disappears” the President of Interpol, Meng Hongwei? Is this just part of geopolitics?

Is the West too afraid of Saudi Arabia to impose sanctions? Are there more effective ways of addressing the issue? Or is this just good, old-fashioned geopolitics? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Public Domain – U.S. Department of State

50 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    catherine benning

    Is the West too afraid of Saudi Arabia to impose sanctions?

    No one is afraid to impose their wishes, What the West is afraid of is losing the billions of dollars they make via sale of weapons of mass destruction to them

    And as a side bar: This Kashoggi Washington Post Western journalist has been done in, with his body missing, in retaliation to the West doing virtually the same thing to a member of their family, Usama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Ladin. Didn’t the Americans break into his home and murder him, out of the blue, and take his body somewhere unknown, saying it was him who had arranged 9/11? Of course no evidence for it out to the world. Only the ex Presidents wife spilling her guts on the assassination to prove her ‘killer instinct’ was just as evil as any man could be.


  2. avatar

    Definitely. Our economy relies heavily on their exports, but we won’t be changing that anytime soon because influential individuals profit too much in the process to risk losing that.

  3. avatar

    We are throwing rule of law down the tubes and fast approaching a world where arbitrary political executions are the norm.

  4. avatar

    We are consolidating our democracy at the expense of others.

  5. avatar

    I think it’s more that we just don’t care.

  6. avatar

    What are the reasons to be afraid of Saudi Arabia? Oil can be bought from Canada or Norway instead, cutting off supply of weapons to them (which I have no idea why exists in the first place) would very much hinder their military development due to their very little domestic weapons manufacturing, and finally the most basic one- they don’t own any nuclear arms. Have I missed anything?

    • avatar

      Władysław Even the countries which don’t import Saudi oil are affected by the Saudi policies via oil’s prices.
      IF Saudi Arabia put sanctions on oil trade then the price will go to 200$ per barrel and many state’s budgets around the World will be threw to garbage.

    • avatar

      Saudi’s is way cheeper …

  7. avatar

    Yes….they criticize Trump who IS Elected president of a democracy but they don t criticize a corrupted kingdom who finances terrorism and islamism. Europe IS a carpet

  8. avatar

    it will boost Russian weapons Industry,religous and ethnic war needs weapons, they buy any where they can

  9. avatar

    Our hands are tied. Their ‘investments’ in European industries are huge, so we’re not able to be critical anymore, unfortunately.

  10. avatar

    It seems so sadly. That country really deserves a complete boicot and not just for the journalist’ murder

  11. avatar

    Germany just cancelled an arms deal. Looks like someone know how to do the right thing.

  12. avatar

    Sanctions of what…..to sell them weapons&arms……..

  13. avatar

    Unfortunately, everyone needs of Saudi Arabia because it is the major oil supplier.
    Even the countries which don’t import Saudi oil are affected by Saudi policies via oil’s prices. IF Saudi Arabia put sanctions on oil trade then the price will go to 200$ per barrel and many state’s budgets around the World will be threw to garbage.

  14. avatar

    No…”The West” is too afraid of apartheid Israel to apply sanctions and apartheid Israel and Wahhabi Saudi are close allies

  15. avatar

    The West is addicted to Saudi’s billions. Never mind the atrocities they commit.

  16. avatar

    Of course! Too afraid from Saudi Arabia, too afraid from Israel, but not afraid of those that the US points fingers to be sanctioned!

  17. avatar
    John T

    Financial prostitution, in the name of capitalism which is at the expense of international, national and personal morality, is the worst thing that befell humanity. Moral humans can survive and thrive without all this. Unfortunately the world is governed by morally depraved beings.

  18. avatar

    It’s terrible business to trade with people who kill your people.

  19. avatar

    Anyone who thinks that so called civilized countries have high moral principles and dare to suffer cost by implementing them is not only naive but also, sorry, very stupid

  20. avatar

    revolution is only solution

  21. avatar

    for Russia sanctions no evidence.Saudi Arabia no sanctions.HYPOCRISY!

  22. avatar

    We don’t negòtiate with dictators.We brîng them down.

  23. avatar

    Are the powers that be, interested in a democracy in Saudi Arabia??

  24. avatar

    Why not a Saudi Arabia spring.

  25. avatar
    Maia Alexandrova

    The West is not afraid of Saudi Arabia, but is totally corrupted by it. USA, UK, France, Germany and others, even the UN, have sold their most precious democratic moral values to a bloodthirsty dictator who has turned a whole country (Yemen) into a concentration camp for 28 million people and is ruthlessly exterminating children while brutally suppressing people in his own country… But this is all right, as long as the billions keep pouring in, the conscience is silenced… Then they have the audacity to preach and forcefully impose those same moral values on other countries who disagree with them… Isn’t this pure evil? Wolves disguised as lambs! Corrupted politicians, aiding, abetting and covering up a criminal and his gang! If this was about Russia, sanctions would have already been imposed on the second day!

  26. avatar

    Afraid of losing billions in sales of weapons. Time to increase substantially our investment in renewable energy.

  27. avatar

    The Saudis want everything, tall buildings with shiny glass, expensive European cars, western weapons made in USA, Germany etc., computer tech, fine clothing, medicine etc. but they do not seem to understand that with these benefits of modern mankind also comes the concept of human rights. We Westerners have been too god damn tolerant of terror regimes like Saudi Arabia. We should boycott Saudi oil(horizontal drilling?) and take action to limit Saudi Arabia’s ability to export it’s terror ideology to other countries. I always wonder how countries like the USA can see Christian Venezuela as an enemy because of socialism but at the same time embrace a islamic terror regime like Saudi Arabia, 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis this is not a coincidence!

  28. avatar

    a)Probably the dependence on oil/prices.
    b)For some strategic purposes (counter Iran, Gulf area, Red Sea, etc, spread Wahhabism were certain groups go to secular).
    c)Tons of weapons sales and billions of dollars
    and since US-UK leaders particularly support them, EU will follow.

  29. avatar

    Afraid? Making most countries feel inconvenienced is more than enough determent…

  30. avatar

    Err yes! It’s all that money, all those lovely deals to be made, it has blinded the fools to what is right and what is just!
    In the end they lose their souls and ours along with them, because we have allowed these bloody idiots to become our leaders!

  31. avatar

    Germany will do nothing because they sell weapons to Saudis.

    • avatar

      Germany announced they will not sell weapons to Saudi Arabia.

  32. avatar

    The enemy of (Iran) my enemy is my friend.

    • avatar

      What has Iran done to you? How come an individual is in such hatred with a country?

  33. avatar

    I am suprised that journalist knew Osama…Strange ? Prince is welcome here because he is a man…being a women , they will be rude..own experience…

  34. avatar

    Exactly! Where are sanctions for the war in Yemen and outrageous killing in Consulate in Istanbul ? Disgusting double standards!

  35. avatar

    A falta de uma politica independente por parte da UE nos deve envergonhar a todos os europeus.
    Onde andam?
    The lack of an independent policy on the part of the eu must embarrass all Europeans.
    Where are they?

  36. avatar

    No only West but UN are Saudi dependent

    • avatar

      Saudi is the dependent of the US. US role here should not be ignored.

  37. avatar

    We have all reasons to sanction a journalist being murdered for criticizing the government. However, terrorist of someone can also be freedom fighter of others. Patriotism would easily be mobilized during foreign intervention. This is politics. Anyone who loves their own country should work for improvement within the legal framework and pace of the majority. It takes time for the change of structural power. Sudden change of the structural power supporting by foreign power would only lead to collapse of the whole structure. Chaotic situation and even civil war would be highly possible. It is only the people who are going to suffer.

  38. avatar

    The whole world has been sanctioning Iran and North Korea. Are they going to collapse? Sanction would only lead to suffer of the people. When the people are feeling insecure and suffering, they can only unite around the national government for protection. Collective security is the reason societies and nations are born.

  39. avatar

    Sanction what? old salad comptrollers and communication officers. there all our police and first responders why would we do that we enjoy our 20 trillion dollar state education in our hospitals.

  40. avatar

    there already trying to sell all our Nukes from closed mental hospitals to them. maybe we should be friendly they can kill anyone with there comptrollers now.

  41. avatar

    EU has been infected by the US sanction virus?

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