Ankara (GPA) – The case of the missing journalist, Jamal Khashoggi has become an international blunder on the Saudi’s part, and may provide Turkey a chance to further assert themselves as a regional power.
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been missing since last Tuesday when he entered a Saudi consulate inside Turkey. While Saudi Arabia often gets away with human rights abuses and the murder of critics, they may have made a mistake in trying to pull this scheme off under the nose of a competitor for regional power; Turkey.
On Tuesday, October second, Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to attempt to obtain paperwork to get remarried. What happened after that is still unclear but according to sources within the Turkish government, who have been talking to every media outlet that will listen, what happened after Khashoggi was a brutal murder that is quickly becoming an international incident.
Jamal Khashoggi: the story so far
Several days ago when Turkish law enforcement first went public with the fact that Khashoggi had gone missing, the only information available was the fact that the US citizen and Washington Post journalists had last been seen entering the Saudi consulate. Once it became clear that nobody had seen Khashoggi after this the Turkish police soon realized that he had likely been detained when he had gone into the consulate.
Following this realization by the Turkish government, Ankara soon asked Saudi Arabia to account for the reporter by either releasing him or at least showing some evidence he was still alive somewhere. Saudi officials, including the Crown Prince himself, continue to deny that anything happened to Khashoggi and say he left the consulate of his own free will, but once Turkish authorities began asking for things like the surveillance footage from around the consulate, the water got murky.
Now, a week later, it has become evident to the world that Saudi Arabia is indeed hiding something although Riyadh continues to basically remain silent on the issue. Even with Erdogan himself demanding evidence that the journalist left the consulate, the Saudis have still let it get to the point where the Turkish authorities are planning to search the consulate. According to Ankara, they will be searching for the body of Khashoggi who they claim was likely dismembered and hidden inside the consulate and may even be under the garden (which the Turks apparently seek to excavate).
Despite what the Saudis are likely to say, the upcoming Turkish search of the premises is seemingly warranted if the growing evidence released to the media by anonymous Turkish officials and sporadic government statements is true. While Turkey has yet to formally accuse Riyadh of anything, they have been given the runaround on the issue since the weekend when Ankara first requested the aforementioned CCTV footage from the consulate, which is now allegedly “missing”.
The surveillance footage from the consulate may not be available but more recently, other footage from other locations of the day Khashoggi was allegedly killed has been released. This footage shows 15 Saudi nationals identified by Turkish private and state media as the likely “assassination squad” which landed in Istanbul in a pair of private jets on the second. Turkish intelligence has also managed to gather enough video from other local CCTV systems to piece together these hitmen driving a van with diplomatic plates to the consulate before Khashoggi arrived and then leaving shortly after to the Consul’s house and then back to the airport.
Some of these Saudis allegedly identified by the Turks are no small players either. Figures such as the chief of forensic evidence in the public security directorate of the Interior Ministry, Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy and a possible officer in the Saudi special forces, Muhammed Saad al-Zahrani. Zahrani, and another individual identified by Turkey as Thaar Ghaleb al-Harbi have both appeared in photos with the Crown Prince in the past.
Other damming evidence has also come to light since the earliest days of the investigation. At the same time as the news about the missing surveillance footage was released Turkish sources also claimed that the same day the journalist came into the consulate, all of the Turkish employees were told to take the day off from work.
Although it remains unclear exactly how Turkey is so sure Mr. Khashoggi was murdered, in light of this new evidence released Tuesday it does seem something strange happened at the consulate. Turkish intelligence is now not sure whether the Washington Post journalist was killed in the consulate or at the Consul’s residence but Turkey is seeking to find out.
The Washington Post is also eager to find out what happened to their journalist and has allegedly found evidence that shows Washington may have known about the Saudi plan to grab Khashoggi and “failed to stop it.” If indeed Washington did intend to stop this alleged murder (or at least abduction) will probably never really be known, but this kind of behavior by the Saudis usually goes unnoticed.
However, this time it seems Saudi Arabia may have slipped up in choosing the location to abduct Khashoggi, picking a country they have been on the rocks with for some time now.
Erdogan may gain from Saudi’s mistake
It may seem strange that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the leader so concerned with exposing what happened to a journalist considering he has no problem locking up his own. But even though many opposition journalists have lost their jobs in Turkey and seen their outlets seized by pro-Erdogan oligarchs, Ankara may actually be onto a real crime in their pursuit to demonize Saudi Arabia.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia have always had a strained relationship but things have come to a grinding halt in recent years. This stage of rot began to set in back in the summer or 2017 when Saudi Arabia and their allies on the peninsula cut off all ties with Qatar. Following this complete freeze of Qatari lifelines, Turkey (and Iran) stepped in to help the country being chastised for sheltering Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Muslim Brotherhood compatriots.
Turkey has also ended up on the opposite side from Saudi Arabia on another massive issue in the Middle East: Palestine.
As the Saudis have sought to close ranks with Israel and the Crown Prince has basically erased the Palestinian struggle, Erdogan has found that denouncing the occupation is good for him. Both at home and abroad, Erdogan’s rallying cries to defend Palestine often paint him as a much more respectable anti-imperialist figure than any Saudi ever could seem.
Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), on the other hand, isn’t really liked anywhere except for Tel Aviv or in illegal settlements. Even in his own country, the Saudi Crown Prince is staring down the barrel of a loaded gun as he seeks to rip the subsidies from his subjects. These payouts to Saudi citizens are basically the only thing giving the royal family any legitimacy, which has been evidenced by the fact that MBS has gone back on trying to shrink public expenditures in the face of discontent several times.
Erdogan at least has to win votes and, like the Saudis, he also spews a right-wing Islamist populism, but the difference is that people actually voted for the AKP. This is what threatens Saudi Arabia. The Muslim Brotherhood is a viable option to succeed many of the monarchies in the Gulf if they were to fall tomorrow. Erdogan was closely allied with the Muslim Brotherhood during their brief period in power in Cairo, and he would love to see the same thing happen in Riyadh.