Saudis pondering retaliation for alleged assassination plot

Saudi Arabia strongly condemned what it called the “sinful and abhorrent” attempt to assassinate its ambassador to Washington, a day after the US claimed Iran was behind the plot.

Saudi Arabia strongly condemned what it called the “sinful and abhorrent” attempt to assassinate its ambassador to Washington, a day after the US claimed Iran was behind the plot.

The Saudi Embassy in Washington described the alleged plot as a “despicable violation of international norms,” and it thanked US agencies for “preventing a criminal act.”

Saudi foreign ministry spokesman Osama Nugali said the kingdom would soon have a response and a position. “But we are waiting for the investigations to conclude.”

In London, former chief of Saudi intelligence Prince Turki Al-Faisal expressed no such hesitation, telling an oil conference that there was overwhelming evidence that Iran was behind a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador and that it must “pay the price.”

Al-Faisal said, “The burden of proof is overwhelming…and clearly shows official Iranian responsibility for this. Somebody in Iran will have to pay the price, whatever the level of these persons is.”

Prince Turki, who once served as Saudi ambassador to the US and the UK, said the alleged plan “so criminal, it's beyond description.”

It remains unclear just how far the US and its allies would be prepared to go by way of retaliation. US lawmakers have urged President Barack Obama to sanction Iran's central bank, Bank Markazi.

The move, especially if coordinated with the European Union, could potentially freeze Iran out of the global financial system and make it almost impossible for Tehran to clear billions of dollars in monthly oil sales receipts.

US officials, however, expressed caution over such a move as the blacklisting of the Bank Markazi could destabilize global oil markets unless Saudi Arabia and other producers stepped in to make up for any drop-off in Iranian sales.

There is little doubt that the Saudis would welcome the opportunity, given earlier remarks by Al-Faisal who told a conference in June that his country could “squeeze” Iran by undermining its profits from oil.

At the time, Al-Faisal said Saudi Arabia, with new spare production capacity and deep pockets, was “ideally positioned” to inflict damage on its neighbor through the oil weapon.

“Iran is very vulnerable in the oil sector, and it is there that more could be done to squeeze the current government,” Prince Turki said.

“To put this into perspective, Saudi Arabia has so much [spare] production capacity—nearly 4 million b/d—that we could almost instantly replace all of Iran's oil production.”

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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