Erdogan vies to become Middle East Sultan over Khashoggi’s killing

President Tayyip Erdogan delivered a speech at the delivery of a corvette, the third ship of the MİLGEM (National Ship) Project, and the start of construction of a submarine. Turkey has embarked on a huge project to upgrade her naval forces. Taken on 4/11/2018, Turkish Presidency photo.

It’s plain by now that the Turkish ‘Sultan’, President Tayyip Erdogan vies to directly implicate Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud or MbS, the actual ruler of his country in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The victim was for decades a very high placed systemic journalist in Riyadh, loyally serving the authoritative Saudi regime and the country’s rulers.

Mind you, in Saudi Arabia there is no real journalism, just government propaganda. However, one year ago, he sided with MbS’s opponents and was forced to flee to the US. While in America, Khashoggi continued to challenge the Crown Prince from the pages of the Washington Post. He was highly connected, a personal friend to Erdogan and a regular interlocutor with authoritative people all over the world.

Erdogan fuming

Some weeks ago, the victim, living in New York for the last year, was brutally murdered and his body cruelly dismembered and probably dissolved inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Given the low value of human life for the Riyadh rulers, Khashoggi chose to enter the hostile ‘soil’ of the Saudi Arabia Consulate of Istanbul, being reassured, probably, by Erdogan himself about his safety. This is a possible additional explanation, why the Turkish President is so aggressive against the Saudi Prince.

Khashoggi needed a certificate in order to marry his fiancée. Ordering his death, MbS appeared indifferent, about Erdogan’s personal protective coverage for the victim. By the same token, Riyadh appears indifferent for Turkey’s weight in the wider Middle East. No wonder, then, why all along the last few weeks the Turkish authorities, guided by the Presidency, keep the story in the ‘first page’ of the country’s Press. Again, it’s certain the Turkish Press is now controlled by Erdogan’s regime.

Wider publicity

The atrocity of the act and the persisting publicity has offered Turkey a good leverage against the Saudi Crown Prince. For the first time in the history of Saudi Arabia a murder ordered by the rulers – and there must have been hundreds or even thousands – has forced Riyadh to stutter and bit by bit accept a mounting responsibility.

Obviously, it’s not the thirst for ‘justice to be served’ that drives Ankara in this affair. The Turkish President has persecuted and jailed tens of thousands of journalists, civil servants, teachers, military men even generals, just for being critical to him. It’s hard then to believe the Turkish Sultan’s motives are even remotely connected with Justice.

A fight for supremacy

The appalling crime and treatment of the body was committed by a group of Saudi security operatives, who flew aboard a private jet for that purpose from Riyadh to Istanbul and left right after. They surely were acting on orders from the highest possible Saudi authority, aka MbS. Erdogan exaggerated the issue to a global affair and forced the West to hold Saudi Arabia accountable.

The US President appears reluctant though to follow Erdogan all the way in the continuous ‘bombardment’ of MbS. Saudi Arabia is an irreplaceable and strategic partner to the US Middle East strategy. On top of that, one year ago, President Trump won a huge armaments contract with Riyadh of more than $110 billion.

Belittling Saudi Arabia

The Turkish President with a history of silencing the Press in his own country by jailing, persecuting and reportedly killing journalists has clearly other motives in the Khashoggi affair, than protecting the freedom of Press. Clearly, his target is to belittle the role of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and the world, and so far has managed to keep Riyadh out from the dismembering and the sharing of Syria. This affair proves to be a unique leverage for Ankara against Riyadh, not only MbS.

In short, the issue develops into a direct confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Which one is to be the ‘leader’ of the Muslims in these parts of the world? Riyadh has played an energetic and critical role in the American and Western invasions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran and elsewhere. It will be very difficult for Turkey to convince Washington and the West that Ankara can now effectively take the tally.

New Sultan in Middle East

If, however, Erdogan succeeds in neutralizing the role of Saudi Arabia in the wider Middle East, Turkey may rise as the leading regional power. In such an eventuality, Europe will be confronted with an upgraded, unpredictable and aggressive Turkey.

With ‘Sultan’ Erdogan at the helm of this populous Sunni Muslim country and given his tactics to export his political problems, the European Union will be forced to re-consider its strategy in the wider region. And this will not be an easy task.

 

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