The murder of Jamal Khashoggi has given Turkey’s leader an undeserved chance to gain political capital
It’s strange that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has all of a sudden become a champion of free press and human rights after a Saudi journalist was murdered in his country. This is a national leader, after all, who has had no qualms about shutting down the opposition press in his nation, silencing academics and jailing critics.
Yet now he’s playing a high-stakes game by allowing a series of murky leaks suggesting a link between Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an exiled journalist who lived in the United States and wrote critically about Saudi politics. Khashoggi vanished on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in the Turkish capital to collect documents he needed for his forthcoming wedding.
There is now little doubt that Khashoggi was a victim of a pre-planned murder. After first denying any knowledge of his fate or whereabouts, the Saudi government has admitted he was killed inside the consulate, albeit accidentally. It has blamed his inadvertent death on a handful of security officers who were interrogating him.
Erdogan is now telling the world that Turkey has every right to
investigate the case. Saudi Arabia would prefer to handle the affair on its own. Either way, it would appear that the Saudi crown prince’s bloody tactics have finally caught up with him. Ousting him now, though, could weaken the ruling House of Saud. Keeping him on as de facto ruler could leave more than just a bloodstain on the kingdom’s international standing when he assumes the throne.
Saudi Arabia will be regarded as a pariah state if this matter is swept under the carpet. The 33-year-old prince could be an enduring liability to his nation and his family regime. Instead of having the potential to serve as a key power broker in the Middle East for decades to come, his thirst for power has got the better of him. He went so far as to lock up his cousins – who were among his political opponents – and force them to sign over assets and pledge fealty.
And yet he has the audacity to bill himself as an Islamic reformist, thus tarnishing one of the world’s great religions. It now seems as though all of his rhetoric about reform and justice has merely masked ambition. Erdogan’s quest to be the political leader of the Muslim world has long been at
loggerheads with Bin Salman’s.
Someone will have to pay the penalty for the murder of Khashoggi. The accused security personnel are in custody, but no one really believes they acted on their own. Some observers now wonder whether the Saudi government has the will and the courage to name the true masterminds and apply its own cruel brand of justice to whoever is ultimately found guilty.
At the same time, the quest for justice for Khashoggi should not give Erdogan a political victory. If Erdogan wants to lead the Muslim world, he will have to earn that position, not ride to it on the back of a dead
journalist whose writing contributed significantly to the well-being of Middle Eastern politics and society.
We hope the international
community will use this opportunity to continue pressuring Saudi Arabia to end the war in Yemen that has already killed thousands and plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis. Millions of people risk starving to death. Momentum is building against Saudi Arabia, and supporters of the kingdom and of the war in Yemen, like the United States, need to reconsider their position.