By Burak Bekdil
looked like a first-class spy thriller: A prominent writer enters the Saudi
consulate in Istanbul but never leaves the building. Saudi officials said he
left the building but could not offer footage from security cameras. When they
did, the image was of a dark-haired body-double dressed in the writer's
police and intelligence start leaking evidence of the man's murder, drop by
drop. The day before the Saudi journalist's disappearance, two private Saudi
jets had arrived in Istanbul, with 15 passengers aboard belonging to security
agencies in Riyadh. Both jets left for Saudi Arabia shortly after the consulate
incident. Unnamed Turkish officials fed (mostly foreign) media stories of how
the man had been killed, how his body was dismembered and disposed of after the
murder -- all by the Saudi death squad. As the Saudi consul-general rushed to
Riyadh, Turkish police searched the consulate. More unnamed Turkish officials
tell the press that they found forensic evidence for the murder. Unsure if the
Turkish police really have evidence, the House of Saud decides to admit that
the man had been killed "in a brawl" at the consulate but Saudi
officials claim to have no idea where his body was -- not convincing anyone in
the world's more democratic parts.
Saudis then said they fired five officials and arrested 18. In the latest
episode, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said:
this is a political murder, it should be investigated and put on trial
independently and with no bias. The suspects' accomplices in other countries
should also be included in the investigation. I have a call for Saudi Arabia:
This happened in Istanbul. We propose to put these 18 suspects on trial in
reports surfaced not only that bones of the writer have been found buried in
the Saudi consul-general's lawn, but also that one the 18 hitmen has somehow
died in a car accident.
years earlier, Saudi Arabia was on the world's agenda with funnier news. In
2015, UN Watch discovered that Faisal bin Hassan Trad, Saudi Arabia's
ambassador at the UN in Geneva, was elected as chair of a panel of independent
experts on the UN Human Rights Council. In 2017, the Saudi joke turned less
funny after the country was elected to the UN's Commission on the Status of
Women: The kingdom became one of 45 countries sitting on a panel
"promoting women's rights, documenting the reality of women's lives
throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the
empowerment of women". Saudi royals must have had spasms of laughter at
the level of international gullibility.
1977, Princess Misha'al bint Fahd al Saud was in an arranged and unhappy
marriage with an older cousin. She left for Beirut to pursue her studies where
she met Khaled, the son of a Saudi diplomat, and began an affair, enraging the
princess's conservative grandfather, Muhammad bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, brother
of the Saudi king. She and her lover were taken to a parking lot in Jeddah, and
19-year-old Princess Misha'al was executed by a gunshot to the head while her
lover watched. He would presently be dispatched by beheading.
2000s, authorities documented that the Saudi-sponsored King Fahad Academy in
West London was using Saudi Ministry of Education textbooks that taught their
pupils that Christians and Jews are apes and monkeys.
2017, a British investigation into the foreign funding and support of jihadi
groups focused on Saudi Arabia, which has repeatedly been highlighted by
European leaders as a funding source for Islamist jihadis.
all Westerners, however, were "Saudi-blind." In 2015 WikiLeaks
publisher Julian Assange said:
Saudi Cables lift the lid on an increasingly erratic and secretive dictatorship
that has not only celebrated its 100th beheading this year, but which has also
become a menace to its neighbours and itself".
were signs that the Saudis were privately growing impatient with their
dissidents abroad. Recently two men who said they were carrying a personal
message from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met in Montreal with opposition
activist Omar Abdulaziz to "offer him two choices:" go back to Saudi
Arabia or to prison. Abdulaziz chose none and provided The Washington Post with
clandestine recordings of conversations of more than 10 hours revealing a
chilling depiction of how the Kingdom tries to lure opposition figures back to
the country with promises of money and safety. Saudi agents also secretly
installed spyware on Abdulaziz's smartphone. Interestingly, Abdulaziz is a
close associate of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed at the Saudi Consulate
Khashoggi murder has already gone beyond a simple spy thriller. Apparently, the
Saudis wanted to embarrass Turkey by choosing Istanbul as the crime scene. They
also wanted to tell Saudi dissidents across the world that they are not safe in
whichever country they may live.
mistake: The Saudis underestimated the professional capabilities of Turkish
security and intelligence services and ridiculed themselves by initially
claiming that the journalist had left the consulate building alive, and only
later admitting to killing him.
mistake: The Saudis miscalculated how their reckless murder would ricochet
around the world. Several world leaders, international economic organizations
and corporations decided to boycott "Davos in the Desert," an
otherwise prominent economic conference in Riyadh. Germany announced an arms
embargo on Saudi Arabia.
international sanctions on the Kingdom may soon fade away in response to Saudi
Arabia's huge "petro-dollar purchasing power." A harsh response,
however, would also likely deter, or stop for a long time, any similar rogue
operation, especially at a time when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is keen
to give a facelift to his country's international standing by at least
cosmetically reforming the sharia state.
pursuing its own Islamist agenda and trying to rival Saudi influence in the
Sunni world, is just too happy to have discredited the Wahhabi royals. Turkey's
message to the Western world was: See the difference between our peaceful
Islamism and rogue-state Islamism? Stop discrediting us for our democratic
deficit -- also, presumably, for "only" imprisoning more than 100
will not work. Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen,
Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League have all declared their
support for Saudi Arabia in the "Khashoggi Affair."
that should tell Turkish President Erdogan is that his neo-Ottoman aspiration
for Turkish leadership in the Islamic world has once again hit the walls of
Middle Eastern reality. All the same, it is fun to watch a Muslim country, the
world's biggest jailer of journalists, condemning another Muslim country for
the murder of a journalist.
Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists,
was recently fired from the country's most noted newspaper after 29 years, for
writing in Gatestone what is taking place in Turkey. He is a Fellow at the
Middle East Forum.