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Why Turkish officials challenge Saudi claims in Jamal Khashoggi death

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mbs khashoggi erdogan
Turkey
may have an ulterior motive behind its continuous intelligence
leaks about journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing. Here, a
composite image of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,
Khashoggi, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan.

Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters;
Middle East Monitor via Reuters; Matt Dunham – WPA Pool/Getty
Images


  • Turkish officials have continuously leaked intelligence
    reports about journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing to US and
    Turkish media as Saudi Arabia tries to absolve its leadership
    from it.
  • Many senior officials, including President Recep Tayyip
    Erdogan, are also issuing increasingly bold accusations
    directly implicating the Saudi leadership in Khashoggi’s
    death.
  • Experts say this shows that Turkey is trying to extract
    some kind of concession from Saudi Arabia, which could come in
    the form of new contracts or an informal payment.
  • Turkey and Saudi Arabia have a fraught relationship,
    and are both vying to be leaders in the region.

As Saudi Arabia attempts to distance itself from the killing of
journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey has challenged
Riyadh’s version of events at every turn.

Intelligence reports, such as
surveillance footage showing a Saudi body double wearing
Khashoggi’s clothes around Istanbul
, are being leaked to US
and Turkish media outlets at an increasing pace. Turkish
officials are also issuing increasingly bold accusations directly
implicating Saudi leadership in the killing.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to
reveal the “naked truth”
behind Khashoggi’s killing,
suggesting that the Saudi claims last Friday that
Khashoggi died of a physical altercation gone wrong
was
inconsistent.

Omer Celik, the spokesman of Turkey’s ruling Justice
and Development Party (AKP), also claimed on Monday that
the killing “was planned in an extremely savage manner,” and
suggested that “there has been a lot of effort to whitewash
this,”
Agence-France Presse reported
.

Turkey’s continuous leaks and assertions against Saudi Arabia
could be a sign that Ankara is trying to use its intelligence to
extract some kind of concession from Riyadh.

Experts suspect Turkey’s trying to get a deal out of Saudi Arabia


Mohammed bin Salman
Turkey
may be trying to extract something from Saudi Arabia through its
leaks and increasingly bold statements against the Saudi
leadership. Crown Prince Mohammed in March
2018.

REUTERS/Amir
Levy


Lisel Hintz, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University’s
School of Advanced International Studies, told Business Insider
that Turkey’s latest actions were “indicative of the Turkish
government trying to see what price it can extract from the
intelligence it has.”

“Turkey is trying to, through informal channels [like leaks to
the media and public statements], let Saudi Arabia know what they
have on them or at least claim that they know so that they can
extract some kind of price,” she said.

“I don’t know what they’d be — defense contracts, construction
contracts, and informal payoff — I don’t know,” Hintz continued.
“But given the behavior and leaking of information through these
informal channels, it seems as though they [Turkish officials]
are trying to let Saudi Arabia know they have something on them,
and that might be up for sale.”


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

CCTV/Hurriyet via
AP


Ceylan Yeginsu, The New York Times’ former Turkey correspondent,
also suggested that Turkey was trying to secure some kind of deal
with Saudi Arabia through its leaks.

Yeginsu tweeted on Monday: “The fact that the Turks are
contining [sic] to leak details about [Khashoggi’s] killing
suggests that they haven’t reached a deal with Riyadh.

“They have until tomorrow when Erdogan is expected to reveal all
the details of the investigation ‘in full nakedness.'”

Since Khashoggi’s disappearance, Ankara has flip-flopped from
accusing Riyadh of murder, to refusing to blame the Saudi
leadership, to now suggesting that the kingdom planned the murder
and attempted to “whitewash” the entire case.

Neil Quilliam, a senior research fellow with Chatham House’s
Middle East and North Africa program,
told Business Insider last week
that Turkish officials “were
prepared to offer the Saudis a way out of the crisis — at least
provide them with an off-ramp — but given the Saudi response or
lack of it, the authorities continue to share more and more
details.”

Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are vying to be leaders in
the region


Mecca Islam worship
Turkey and Saudi Arabia
are both vying to be the leader of the Sunni Muslim world. Here,
pilgrims at Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Zurijeta/Shutterstock

Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s relationship is a tenuous one. Both
countries are vying to be the leader of the Sunni Muslim world,
but have
different models of what it should look like
: Turkey’s model
fuses Islam with liberal democratic elements, while Saudi’s
version is more conservative and fundamentalist.

Turkey under Erdogan has teamed up with the Muslim Brotherhood
and Hamas, two organizations that Saudi Arabia considers to be
terrorists.

Ankara also publicly backed Qatar, Saudi’s enemy in the region,
when Riyadh and its allies
severed diplomatic relations with it
in June 2017.

That’s not to say the two countries are arch enemies, however.
Turkey, whose
currency dramatically collapsed this summer
, sees Saudi as a
potential investor in its economy.

Be wary of Turkish leaks


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the sixth Congress of the ruling AK Party (AKP) in Ankara, Turkey, August 18, 2018.
Turkish
President Tayyip Erdogan in August 2018.


REUTERS/Umit
Bektas



Turkish intelligence, leaked anonymously in US and Turkish media,
can’t be blindly trusted.

State-run Turkish media organizations, such as Daily Sabah
and Yeni Safak, have published explosive but unverified claims —
including those that Khashoggi recorded the moment of his killing
on his Apple Watch. (Tech
experts have since questioned that claim.
)

Both Sabah and Yeni Safak have published fake news in the past,
the BBC
reported
.

Unnamed Turkish officials have also repeatedly claimed to have an
audio recording of Khashoggi’s last moments, but multiple US and
European intelligence officers said they never received it.

US President Donald Trump has questioned the existence of these
recordings. “So far, we’ve heard about it, but nobody has seen
it,” he said Saturday, adding that included the FBI and CIA to
his knowledge.

Hintz said: “I think that US commentators, media, and government
have maybe been relying too much what they [Turkish state media]
are sharing is fact and not critically questioning the fact that
the Turkish government has immense incentive to claim they have
this information.”

She added that pro-government newspapers that have been covering
the crisis tend to print whatever the government wants them to
print.

“It’s worth being circumspect about the veracity of these
claims,” Hintz said. “Ties between the AKP and those newspapers
are very close. There’s nothing in those papers being printed
that’s not at least being approved by the government, if not
being handed to them” before publication.

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