New uncertainty in West Asia

Deccan Chronicle.

Opinion, DC Comment

It is unclear whether he can do so with domestic pressure mounting on him to penalise Riyadh through sanctions.

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi (Photo: AFP)

The official acknowledgment by the Saudi authorities early on Saturday — after putting out false stories earlier — that Jamal Khashoggi, the well-known Saudi journalist-critic of Saudi Arabia’s de factor ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), had indeed been killed at its consulate in Istanbul, can throw power hierarchies in the most significant country of the Islamic world — and a crucially important oil producing nation — in turmoil.

It can also severely strain the Kingdom’s relationship with the Western powers. The event has caused anger in the US. It is to be seen, however, if President Donald Trump, who had fashioned his entire West Asia strategy by betting on the success of the young MBS, without whose sanction it appears the murder could not have taken place, would attempt to shield the Crown Prince.

Washington had signed a $115 billion armaments agreement with Riyadh. Mr Trump’s instinct would be to save that deal. It is unclear whether he can do so with domestic pressure mounting on him to penalise Riyadh through sanctions.

If sanctions come into play, and the Saudis respond with cutting international oil supplies, the impact of this can be to spread economic uncertainty — including for India. There is likely to be a regional geopolitical realignment as well in the West Asian theatre which could water down the current US resolve to punish and isolate Iran.

That may not necessarily be a bad thing for India, which has always sought to retain a good relationship with mutually hostile Tehran and Riyadh. India, of course, should avoid getting sucked into the power politics of the West.

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