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Oct 26 2018

Erdoğan using Khashoggi death to attack trio of foes - FT

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is using the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi to gain an unexpected advantage against a trio of regional foes, Laura Pitel wrote for the Financial Times.

Erdoğan and his close ally Qatar have been facing off in a Middle East power game against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which are staunchly opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist political groups that Qatar and Turkey support, Pitel said.

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey programme at the Washington Institute, said Erdoğan is now turning the screws as Turkey’s investigation of Khashoggi’s killing in Istanbul in early October continues.

“Erdoğan has grasped an opportunity to go after this tripartite alliance,” Cagaptay said. “And he’s now going after its weakest link.”

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is suspected of ordering the murder, is the driving force behind some of Riyadh’s most aggressive foreign policy moves. Erdoğan sees him as a destructive force and wants to persuade the West that he’s a liability, Turkish officials say, according to Pitel.

However, while one official said he believed bin Salman’s removal would have a “huge impact” on Saudi Arabia’s direction, it is more likely that Riyadh will respond to international pressure by putting checks on his power, Pitel said.

The ultimate outcome may depend on President Donald Trump, who sees Riyadh as a key U.S. ally, she said.

Turkey stands to benefit from the crisis even if bin Salman stays. Rewards could include financial support from the oil-rich kingdom and exemptions from U.S. sanctions on Iran, said Ahmet Kasim Han, an international relations professor at Altinbas University in Istanbul.

“Removal of Mohammed bin Salman might be the ideal situation,” he said, according to the FT. “Short of that, there is still a lot that Turkey can gain.”