Jamal Khashoggi's murder: 'opportunity' to refresh Ankara-Riyadh relations

As the harsh statements of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the US in the first days of Khashoggi’s disappearance have been replaced by wary ‘appreciations’, the recent past of the relations between the three countries show that they all want to go back to ‘normal’
Saturday, 20 October 2018 21:46

The relations between Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the US, which have had the “opportunity” to be reformed after Jamal Khashoggi, the “lost” Saudi writer who disappeared at the Saudi Consulate General in İstanbul, reveals the extent of the negotiations even with the part that has been covered in the media.

Along with international media such as CNN, Reuters, and AP, many media outlets such as pro-government daily Yeni Şafak in Turkey covered details on the killing of Khashoggi in news reports which they based on anonymous Turkish authorities. It draws attention that the Turkish presidency and law enforcement authorities have been avoiding to make direct statements on the incident where every detail have been progressing with the “claims” put forth by the media. The British newspaper Times, on the other hand, asserts that the news reports in this aspect have been leaked by the Turkish presidency in order to gain leverages in economic and political negotiations. These filthy relations between the actors in question makes it a necessity to remember the recent years when significant events in the region.


The Muslim Brothers, who took power for a short period of time in Egypt after the imperialist intervention called the “Arab Spring” in 2011, was the first large-scale source of crisis where Turkey and Saudi Arabia faced off against each other. Saudi Arabia, who host large numbers of Egyptians, sided against all of the Muslim-Brothers-related groups in the whole Arabian geography, especially in Egypt. Turkey was the only country that embraced the executives of the Muslim Brothers whom Jamal Khashoggi had been supporting in every turn since his 20’s.

Khashoggi, who repeatedly advocated in his column at the Washington Post that the US should revise their policies on the Muslim Brothers, was among those who ran from the liquidation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MbS, to Turkey in no time flat. For some who represented the Saudi intelligentsia in areas such as media, politics, and law, the alternative to the “coup” by bin Salman was not European countries but Turkey. Among the sources who first reported that there was not a sight or sound of Khashoggi was the Muslim-Brothers-related Turkish-Arab Media Group which is known to include many Saudi “opposing” journalists.


As the executives of the Muslim Brothers took refuge in Turkey, Saudi Arabia provided Egypt with aids of millions of dollars, and targeted every location where they encountered “remnants” of the Muslim Brothers, such as Libya and Palestine. Another confrontation on the issue with Turkey was on Qatar, which was one of those locations. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain announced in June 2017 that they severed all ties with Qatar due to its support for the Muslim Brothers and relations with Iran. In the face of the crisis which also involved an economic embargo against Qatar, Turkey pitted against Saudi Arabia by expanding its military base in Qatar and getting through the blockade with food shipping.


In all the tension, the mutual trading volume between Turkey and Saudi Arabia increased to $5 billion in 2017. Saudi Arabia, who invests more than $1 billion annually in especially tourism and real estate, also holds a significant place in the banking and finance system in Turkey. The “appreciation” Turkey received from Saudi King Salman, who was granted an Order of the State by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2016, on the investigation of Khashoggi was based on this foundation.

Erdoğan, who stated that he had known Khashoggi for a long time, expressed his “moderate” attitude by saying: “I still have good faith. I wish we do not encounter the result that we do not desire. Khashoggi is the son of a very powerful family. I, as the President, am all over the issue, I’m after it. However, this matter concludes, it will be us who announces it to the world.”


US President Donald Trump and the US Congress, who mentioned in an accusing manner possible sanctions after the disappearance of Khashoggi, seem to have changed their minds as of this week. Trump, who had spoken of “severe punishments” in case the Saudi administration was liable for Khashoggi’s disappearance, stated after his meeting on October 15 that the Saudi King and Prince should not be criminalised until “proven innocent”.

Republican sources who were interviewed by Financial Times, on the other hand, stated that the Congress had given up on targeting Prince and King Salman in a possible sanction no matter how Khashoggi was found out to have been killed. The sources explained the situation as: “…[people in] Congress want to use a scalpel rather than hammer, so we don’t blow up the relationship.” Having been interviewed with Fox Business recently, Trump underlined that they did not want to draw away from Saudi Arabia after the Khashoggi incident.


During US Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo’s visit to Saudi Arabia, it was revealed that Riyadh had given $100 million to be used in the Syrian region controlled by the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The timing of the “aid” was noteworthy, which was determined in August.

Trump, whose first foreign visit was to Saudi Arabia after he was elected president in 2016, signed an arms sale contract with Prince bin Salman worth $110 million last year. Saudi Arabia, the largest crude oil exporter in the world, is expected to increase the oil supply to the market against the fluctuations in oil prices after the US sanctions on Iran have been put in effect on November 4. An open dispute was going on between the US and the Saudi administration on the increase of oil prices. The US wants Riyadh to meet the need of oil after the embargo on Iran by increasing the production. Saudi Arabia refused to do that since it would devalue oil. The US is expected to have a compromise from the Saudis due to the Khashoggi incident.


As the harsh statements of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the US in the first days of Khashoggi’s disappearance have been replaced by wary “appreciations”, the chequered between the three countries seem to have softened at the level of discourse. While the claims on the Crown Prince bin Salman are being fended off by the US and Turkey, the explanations of “anonymous” authorities show who has not lost regardless of the consequences of the Khashoggi investigation. Actually, the relations seem to have turned to normal between the American arms monopolies who signed the largest sale contract in history, the Saudi Prince who provided billions of dollars of sources on an operation against his opponents, and Turkey who is claimed to have come to an agreement with the Saudi capital behind closed doors. No one is expected to completely ignore the Khashoggi issue, but it is not hard to find a scapegoat at a point where the three countries have reached an agreement.