31.10.2018 Author: Martin Berger

Khashoggi Case Triggered Geopolitical Tectonic Shifts


The recent murder of the prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that has become universally recognized across the world for the pieces he would pen for Washington Post has revealed a number of facts that remained unapparent for the Western public for a long while.

As it’s been pointed out by the Foreign Policy, the bloody murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has unmasked the ugly despotism behind the reformist image of Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Hardly anyone at this point has any doubts about the oppressive personality that has been hiding behind the image of a great reformist.

However, Khashoggi’s murder says as much about America as it does about Saudi Arabia.

While exploring this topic, the Washington Post would reveal that Trump’s outlook of the world is utterly rooted in his personal likes and dislikes of other leaders, and Mohammed bin Salman is no exception. In the Middle East, this has led to the blind subcontracting of US foreign policy to Saudi Arabia. That is precisely why Washington chose to step back and observe unsympathetically Riyadh’s aggression against Yemen, Qatari blockaded Qatar, its quarrels with Turkey and the kidnapping of the prime minister of Lebanon.

After all, the United States has done nothing to challenge any of the prince’s earlier stunts: arresting over 200 Saudi princes and business leaders and extorting much of their private fortunes; and freezing trade relations with Canada over a mild human rights complaint.

However, from the point of view of Newsweek, it’s Mohammed bin Salman’s rampant aggression against Yemen that has brought the most misery and suffering to this world out of all his previous sins. On top of almost eight million people finding themselves on the brick of starvation, there’s more than 16,000 civilians killed and the tens of thousands civilians injured in the Arab world’s poorest country as the result of Saudi devastating one-sided war on Yemen.

It’s been pointed out that in one of Jamal Khashoggi’s last pieces, he called on the Saudi crown prince to end the violence in Yemen. He didn’t call out Donald Trump’s and Jared Kushner’s complicity in those crimes, but somebody has to.

As Donald Trump seems to be more concerned with the preservation of 110 billion dollars worth of military deals, he has a hard time changing his rhetorics on Riyadh even in the light of the Khashoggi case, notes Le Temps.

However, this case is where Washington’s undisguised double-standard policies are as apparent as they will ever get, notes a former Czech military intelligence officer, Andor Shandor in one of his interviews. This hypocrisy gets even more striking against the background of the rushed hasty accusations that the West made in the so-called Salisbury incident against Moscow. In this connection, the bias based on sheer greed gets simply unavoidable even for a casual observer.

Less noticed, however, is the way this scandal revealed a deep rotted rivalry between the two countries that would pretend to enjoy amicable relations for a long while: Turkey and Saudi Arabia. It’s been pointed out that those states are professing two different interpretations of Sunni Islam—versions that have evolved within very different historical trajectories and that have produced contrasting visions about the contemporary Middle East.

In the bitter face-off between the two regional heavyweights even those countries that would stick to more a neutral stance are now feeling compelled to take sides. However, it must be pointed out that this rivalry dates back to the 18th century. Back then, much of what we call “the Middle East” today, including the more habitable part of the Arabian Peninsula, was part of the Ottoman Empire.

However, upon detailed examination, one can’t miss the fact that the currents of discord run much deeper than that. For a long time, Riyadh would call for a united front against Shia Islam to be created across the Middle East, while Turkey even if it had a number of disputes with Tehran over the fate of Syria and the military conflict that is raging in this country, has never gone as far as to describe Iran as its enemy.

Further still, there’s a dispute between the two states over the Muslim Brotherhood movement that Riyadh describes as a terrorist organization, in spite of Ankara’s determination to provide lip support to this group.

That is why Tayyip Erdogan sees the Jamal Khashoggi case as a chance to hobble Saudi Arabia, a regional and religious rival. He almost certainly views this case as a chance to kneecap Riyadh and advance his goal of making Turkey the dominant Sunni Muslim power and he is extremely likely to emerge from this confrontation even stronger than before.

In contrast, the situation is only going to get worse for Mohammed bin Salman as new evidence implicating Saudi authorities in the despicable murder of Jamal Khashoggi are going to emerge. This will expose Riyadh to an ever increasing international pressure together with Donald Trump, that is going to be cornered by the Congress into taking a step back from the military deals he seems unable to part with.

Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”