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    As the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance scandal unfolds, Riyadh has warned it will not be undermined by political pressure and could respond with a bigger action.

    Sputnik has discussed possible retaliatory measures that Saudi Arabia might resort to amid pressure over the missing journalist's case with Gawdat Bahgat, professor of national security affairs at the National Defense University's Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Study.

    Sputnik: Riyadh warns it will not be undermined by political pressure and could respond with a bigger action. What realistically can Saudi Arabia do?

    Gawdat Bahgat: As everybody knows, it is very complicated and I'm not surprised by the Saudi reaction. The fact of the matter is the West or the whole world needs Saudi Arabia as much as Saudi Arabia needs western powers and the rest of the world. Saudi Arabia is a very important country in the war on terrorism.

    The two holiest Islamic places are in Saudi Arabia; Saudi Arabia shares very important intelligence information with other countries, not only Western powers but also in Russia the war on extremist groups Saudi Arabia is very important. Saudi Arabia is also very important in the oil industry and in arms sales. So, the whole world is interested in Saudi Arabia. So that's why Saudi Arabia has some leverage to intimidate the rest of the world or to threaten retaliation.

    READ MORE: Saudi Arabia, Turkey Likely to Resolve Tensions Over Khashoggi Case — Naumkin

    Sputnik: Realistically, what would you expect Saudi Arabia to do?

    Gawdat Bahgat: If I may, I can make two points here. Saudi Arabia is not popular at all in the American public opinion. The great majority of Americans had  a very negative perception of Saudi Arabia even before what happened with the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It looks to me very unlikely that the administration will take the initiative to impose any sanctions on Saudi Arabia; more likely the Congress will take the lead and at the end the Trump administration will have no choice but to follow the Congress.

    This is the law here in the United States. The second point I want to make is that the most important sanctions the United States and the whole world can impose on Saudi Arabia is oil. This is where Saudi Arabia gets almost all its money. I cannot imagine that western powers will impose sanctions on the three major oil producing countries —Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia.

    The global economy will collapse. That has never happened before. As we speak, western powers are imposing sanctions on Russia and Iran, two major oil producing countries; if they add Saudi Arabia, it has never happened before, and this will deal a huge blow to the global economy.

    READ MORE: US Needs to Know Facts Behind Khashoggi Vanishing to Formulate Response — Pompeo

    Sputnik: It would be very difficult to switch to other options but then there's Russia which is also under sanctions and could become of this a nice little sanctioned the by the West club, and perhaps, Saudi Arabia could pivot towards Russia to a greater extent, what are your thoughts on that?

    Gawdat Bahgat: This is exactly what I believe. I believe there will be some kind of sanctions, some kind of punishment for Saudi Arabia. It is hard now to decide exactly how severe these sanctions will be, but I believe with pressure from Europe and from the Congress there will be some kind of sanctions, some kind of punishment for Saudi Arabia.

    The Saudi reaction will be, I believe, to get closer to Russia and China and also to Israel. One way to get the American public to accept Saudi Arabia is closer relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel; and it is hard to see how this will play out, but I believe this Cold War mentality to try to play off one superpower against the other will not work.

    READ MORE: Turkish Police Discover Evidence of Khashoggi Murder in Saudi Consulate — Report

    Sputnik: Bottom line, how effective would any efforts to sanction Saudi Arabia really be?

    Gawdat Bahgat: I don't believe it will have much impact. It might delay or complicate their plan to reform the economy, to have foreign investment; but at the end of the day, Saudi Arabia has a lot of money and is investing in many countries including Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Europe. Saudi Arabia is not Libya. So I believe sadly, the whole issue will be behind us in a few weeks, a few months, and Saudi Arabia will survive this.

    Views and opinions expressed in the article are those of Gawdat Bahgat and do not necessarily express those of Sputnik.

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    Jamal Khashoggi, Donald Trump, Turkey, United States, Saudi Arabia
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