The White House slapped 17 Saudi Arabian government officials with economic sanctions in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to a report from Reuters, the sanctions were announced on Thursday, just hours after Riyadh announced it would be seeking the death penalty for five of the men accused of the killing. The US Department of the Treasury claims that the new sanctions are authorized under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which targets “serious human rights abuse and corruption.”
“The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a press release. “These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions. The United States continues to diligently work to ascertain all of the facts and will hold accountable each of those we find responsible in order to achieve justice for Khashoggi’s fiancée, children, and the family he leaves behind. The Government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists.”
The most prominent individual facing sanctions is Saud Al-Qahtani, a now-resigned chief aid to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Consul General Mohammad al-Otaibi was also sanctioned, as well as the 15 men who were on the “kill team” that carried out the execution. Canada, which went through its own dispute with the Gulf state earlier this year over its human rights record, cheered the White House’s move.
In a move to ease international pressure, the Saudi regime has requested the death penalty be carried out for five of the accused killers. Shalaan al-Shalaan, the Saudi Arabian deputy public prosecutor and spokesman, told reporters that the death penalty is being sought for those suspects who are “charged with ordering and committing the crime, and for the appropriate sentences for the other indicted individuals.” al-Shalaan also claims that Khashoggi was murdered by lethal injection before his body was dismembered and destroyed.
While these sanctions signal a break in traditional US foreign policy, which has often stopped short of placing sanctions on Saudi Arabia or its rulers, Thursday’s sanctions may only be the beginning salvo, and further actions may be forthcoming. Reuters reports that Heather Nauert, a US State Department Spokeswoman, told reporters that the US is still weighing all of its retaliatory options.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Nauert said during a press conference. “It is an initial investigation finding. It is important that those steps continue to be taken for a full accountability. We will continue to work diligently to ascertain the facts.”
On top of the economic punishments, the Saudi Arabian leadership is also upset with President Trump over the Iranian oil sanctions. According to Reuters, Riyadh quickly offered to increase oil production to stabilize the world oil price when the Iranian sanctions hit; however, the US granted several waivers to Iran’s biggest customers, which inadvertently increased the world oil supply and thus dropped its price. In response to this blindside policy change, the Saudi government is considering a drastic slowdown of its crude production.