Is The Khashoggi Murder Being Forgotten?
It’s been more than 100 days since Jamal Khashoggi’s horrendous murder took place at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. A death squad committed the crime, and then reported “mission accomplished” to their bosses in Riyadh. Most were imprisoned to save the real culprits.
From the outset, Turkey pushed hard to reveal those truly responsible, including by publicising information about the hit squad, the last photos of Khashoggi, flight details of two Saudi private jets, information about the investigation of the consulate, and audio of the killing.
In the early days, even Ankara was not aware of the scope of the geopolitical earthquake that Khashoggi’s murder would trigger. However, Turkey rapidly devised a plan based on two main strategies.
Crucial evidence leaked
Firstly, it became apparent that it would be impossible to get an immediate result in the short term, so momentum had to be maintained, with crucial pieces of evidence leaked nearly every.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s calls for justice, and his claims to reveal the “naked truth”, served to inflame discussions and to increase pressure on the relevant parties – mainly, the Trump administration. Ironically, all the actors who had criticised Turkey over limited freedom of expression sided with Erdogan on this matter.
Secondly, Turkey tried to keep the focus on the legalities of the case, rather than making it a political rift between Ankara and Riyadh. While such a crime couldn’t have been committed without the knowledge of anyone from the royal family, Erdogan tried to preserve a delicate balance between fingering Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the culprit and maintaining Turkish-Saudi relations.
Turkey perceived the new crown prince as being symbolic of a new regional order focused on Israel, with Iran and Turkey isolated.
Turkey’s attempts to internationalise the issue, however, were not entirely successful. The French president was overheard speaking to bin Salman about the crisis in front of cameras at the recent G20 summit in Argentina. UK Prime Minister Theresa May was seen meeting the crown prince as though nothing had happened. US President Donald Trump dragged his feet from the very beginning, determined not to lose Saudi money.
The voice recordings of Khashoggi’s killing, however, landed as undeniable evidence of what had happened inside the consulate during those brutal seven minutes. It heaped pressure on Washington, even though National Security Adviser John Bolton said he didn’t listen to it because he did not speak Arabic – though there was no need to know any language to understand the sounds of a bone saw and screaming.