Khashoggi and Gülen cases rocking Washington-Ankara ties - Jerusalem Post

The cases of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen are rocking the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump and Washington-Ankara ties at a complex time for the Middle East, the Jerusalem Post wrote.

Reports emerged on Friday that the CIA concluded the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing of Washington Post contributor Khashoggi, despite denials from Riyadh that the de facto ruler was involved. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate building in İstanbul on Oct. 2 and Turkish authorities believe the 59-year-old known for his criticism of the bin Salman was killed by an execution team sent from the Kingdom.

Reports came out of the weekend that the United States was considering the extradition of Turkish dissident and cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is wanted by Turkey and accused of involvement in a 2016 coup. Trump clarified that his administration was not considering such a move.

These developments ‘’come in the context of tensions between Riyadh and Ankara that have grown since Saudi Arabia led a group of Gulf states to isolate Qatar, which is a Turkish ally,’’ the Jerusalem Post noted, adding that they coincide with a time US-Turkey relations reached an all-time low over Turkey’s claims the US was working with “terrorists” in Syria, and US anger over the detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey..

Other problems between Washington and Ankara include attacks on protesters by Turkish security in 2017 in Washington, and the country’s increasing detentions of dissidents and academics, it added.

The Trump administration is put in an awkward position because of constant leaks in Washington, regarding Khashoggi, and also in Ankara, the article stressed, adding that there is a sense that the US wants to do something to warm relations with Ankara.

“The Trump administration is so desperate to let Saudi off the hook for the murder of a Saudi dissident that they are preparing to send a Turkish dissident [Gulen] back to Turkey, in return for Turkey shutting down the investigation,” the article quoted Liz Sly, the Washington Post Beirut bureau chief, as saying on Twitter.

Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also spoke Friday about the Khashoggi case.

There are other stories claiming that Israel has encouraged Trump to reduce pressure on the Saudis over the killing, according to the article, with Israel and the US administration concerned that a weakened crown prince might not be able to help deliver on a peace deal with the Palestinians.

‘’The real Turkish pressure is likely not about Gulen as much as it is about the US work in eastern Syria,’’ the Jerusalem Post wrote, adding, ‘’’On November 6, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer said in Ankara that the US was authorizing $12 million in rewards for the top three PKK leaders. This unprecedented move was likely aimed at encouraging Turkey to reduce its rhetoric accusing the US of working with “terrorists,” especially since the US partnership with the Syrian Kurds is key to winning the war against Islamic State.’’

Meanwhile the Turkish president over the phone on Friday urged the United States to end support for the PYD and YPG; Ankara has denied it asked about the case of Gülen..

The Jerusalem Post concluded by quoting Joshua Landis, an academic and expert on Syria, who maintains leveraging the Khashoggi killing regarding U.Sç policy in eastern Syria is plausible.

“Turkey wants one thing from US: Stop arming Kurds. By pressuring MbS, Turkey shows Trump that US Mid East policy is vulnerable,’’ Landis said.