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Turkey, Saudi appear to cooperate narratives, intelligence on Khashoggi

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mbs erdogan
Saudi Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
appeared to put on a united front about Jamal Khashoggi’s case
this week.

Amr Nabil/AP; Sean
Gallup/Getty


  • Turkey has challenged Saudi Arabia’s account of Jamal
    Khashoggi’s killing for weeks through intelligence leaks and
    bold public statements.
  • But the two countries put on a united front this
    week.
  • Saudi Arabia has been trying to distance its leadership from
    the case, and Turkey this week appeared to follow this narrative.
  • Ankara and Riyadh’s sharing the same playbook could absolve
    the Saudi crown prince from blame.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia appear to be sharing the same narrative
on Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, a playbook which could pave the way
for the Saudi crown prince to walk away from the crisis
unscathed.

Saudi officials have been focused on distancing its leadership
from Khashoggi’s death and combatting claims
that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the
operation
.

Their main opponents had been Turkish officials, who challenged
the Saudi account of Khashoggi’s killing for weeks through
intelligence leaks and bold public statements.
Khashoggi was a Saudi national who died inside the country’s
consulate in Istanbul
.

But this week, the tone changed. Turkish and Saudi leaders closed
ranks, touted their close relationship, and led many to believe
they are now cooperating on the matter.

It is impossible to know exactly what these leaders are thinking,
and whether they are coordinating. But their behavior over the
past week suggests, at the very least, a decision to go easy on
one another.

The two countries have been running separate investigations into
the killing. They first produced contradictory accounts of what
happened, with Riyadh claiming that the journalist left the
consulate alive, while the Turkish side asserted that he had
died.


jamal khashoggi enter saudi embassy
Surveillance
footage published by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet purports to show
Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October
2.

CCTV/Hurriyet via
AP


Reading the runes from Riyadh

Riyadh on Thursday took a step towards harmonizing its account
with Ankara’s. In a statement from its top prosecutors, the
kingdom said Khashoggi’s death appeared
to be preplanned
, and even went as far as name-checking
the Turkish investigation
.

The kingdom had acknowledged the death already, but initially
claimed it was an accident, carried
out by rogue agents
. It added that it
arrested 18 people
, bolstering their claim that that killing
was unauthorized, and warrants punishment.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spent the week ramping
up pressure on the culprits, but by shifting his rhetoric
appeared to let the Saudi leadership off the hook.


Turkey's President Recep Tayyip ErdoganPresidential Press Service via AP,
Pool

On Tuesday Erdogan said he and Saudi King Salman discussed
sharing intelligence on the death, another point of harmony
between the nations. It also suggests that Erdogan does not
suspect the Saudi monarchy personally.

He also steered clear of mentioning an
alleged audio recording
that Turkish officials claim to have
of Khashoggi’s reportedly brutal death. Hussein Ibish, a senior
resident scholar at the Arab Gulf State Institute, said
that if the recording exists it would be “Turkey’s ace in the
hole.”

Other parties, including the US, have also not acknowledged the
alleged recording, or published it, even though CIA Director Gina
Haspel
reportedly heard it this week
.

Erdogan’s embrace

On Friday Erdogan also made a public show of faith in Crown
Prince Mohammed. According to Reuters he said he “told the crown
prince” to find the 18 people behind the death — suggesting that
he trusts his counterpart to deliver.

Erdogan also claimed to have more evidence from the killing,
Reuters said, but added that he would not be “too hasty” in
releasing it.

The less evidence that is public from the killing, the easier it
will be for all sides to walk away with the current order more or
less intact.

Crown Prince Mohammed chimed in too, claimed
unity with Turkey in a major speech
 on Wednesday. Like
Erdogan, he turned his ire off-stage, attacking unnamed critics
instead.

In a rhetorical crescendo, to lengthy applause, he said: “Many
are trying to use this painful thing to drive a wedge between
Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“I want to send them a message: They will not be able to do that
as long as there is a king called Salman bin Abdulaziz, and a
crown prince called Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, and a
president in Turkey called Erdogan.

Ibish, the Arab Gulf scholar, tweeted
on Thursday
: “Either Turkey & Saudi Arabia have done a
deal, or Riyadh is trying to convince everyone that they have
done a deal.”


Khashoggi family bin Salman
Crown
Prince Mohammed, who has distanced himself from Khashoggi’s
killing, met the journalist’s son in Riyadh this
week.

SPA


The crown prince’s way out?

If Turkey — the strongest voice in this investigation — continues
not to implicate the Saudi leadership in its investigation,
Saudi’s crown prince could walk away from this crisis without
censure.

The US — where Khashoggi lived before his death — and other
countries have expressed concern about the crisis, but have
stopped short of pointing fingers at the Saudi leadership.

President Donald Trump called Riyadh’s reaction to Khashoggi’s
death “one
of the worst
in the history of cover-ups,” but repeatedly
refused to directly blame the Saudi leadership or cancel arms
sales to the kingdom.

Indeed, he went as far as
saying he “would love if he wasn’t responsible,”
referring to
Crown Prince Mohammed.

Consequences

Legal experts said that Khashoggi’s killing
could lead to charges against Crown Prince Mohammed under
international law
, but that it wouldn’t happen without the
the Saudis’ express approval.

The global community could place “some political and financial
pressure for a few years,” national security lawyer Bradley P.
Moss told Business Insider this week, adding: “That is likely to
be the extent of what occurs though.”


jamal khashoggi protester
A
protester holds a sign saying “We will not leave without Jamal
Khashoggi” outside the Saudi embassy in Istanbul on October
5.

Osman
Orsal/Reuters


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