Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Khashoggi case: Erdogan implies possible resolution

President Erdogan delivered a much trailed speech today to the Turkish parliament. He provided a detailed timeline of the events that led up to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The president alluded to the much leaked evidence that the Turkish authorities claim to have, but did not explicitly refer to the alleged recording. His remarks were particularly interesting in respect to King Salman.

According to Erdogan, the Turkish authorities were allowed access to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul only as a result of a conversation between himself and the king. Erdogan also stressed that he was convinced that the king was sincere and wanted a thorough and complete investigation of the crime and all those responsible, no matter how high, to be held to account. Erdogan went on the say that the trial should be held in Istanbul.

Reading between the lines, Erdogan appeared to be offering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a possible resolution to the crisis. The president was implying that eighteen people the Saudis have already identified as suspects should be put on trial for the murder of Khashoggi. Erdogan did not mention Mohammed bin Salman by name, but the implication was clear that Mohammed bin Salman should (in some way) be held responsible. The vagueness here was doubtless deliberate. He was probably suggesting that the Crown Prince by seen as incompetent, rather than as having actively ordered the killing.

Erdogan obviously left unstated the possible publication of the alleged recording of the crime. This possibility is what has driven the Saudis to change their story; it is what forced the Saudis to allow the Turkish authorities access to the consulate; it is what forced the Saudis to agree to cooperate with the Turkish investigation; it is what forced the Saudis to name the eighteen suspects. Erdogan clearly thinks he can use the same possibility to force King Salman to remove Mohammed bin Salman from the position of Crown Prince, and de facto leader, and replace him with someone else; someone who would pursue policies favourable to Turkey (and doubtless Qatar).

In the world of international relations, it is clear that blackmail can be carried on in plain sight.

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