A brewing crisis with the Saudis

A brewing crisis with the Saudis

It appears that an unprecedented diplomatic crisis is brewing between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. If allegations that Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul are true, can we assume that the Saudi executives in Istanbul and Ankara as well as those in the kingdom or those in Riyadh were unaware of probable consequences of such a cold-blooded, blatant act?

It is not of course wise to expect that Turks were naïve to accept claims that Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate from the front door, tried to complete the required paperwork to marry Hatice Cengiz, his Turkish fiancée, and left the building from the back door without being captured by any one of the cameras of the rather exaggerated CCTV system in the building. Did the Saudis really believe Turks were not monitoring the entrances and exits of the consulate? Even if so, the Saudis must have known that in this country — which turned into an Orwellian state with cameras throughout the cities — would not have excluded districts that host particularly diplomatic buildings.

If Turkish officials claim they believe Khashoggi was murdered, dismembered and his remains were carried out of the consulate in diplomatic parcels, it is a very serious charge. If a presidential advisor claims that Khashoggi was probably murdered by a 15-person special squad which came from Saudi Arabia and left the country immediately after the “operation” was completed, it shows that at the top executive office of the country there is some degree of information about what might have happened.

Furthermore, if the Turkish president publicly declares that he had some idea about the fate of Khashoggi but believed that before speaking on the issue further he should wait for the outcome of the investigation, Saudi Arabia should know that it might not be so easy to play the role of innocent this time. Particularly if claims that a team flew in from Saudi Arabia expressly to carry out a planned murder in the consulate are to be verified with some concrete proof in the investigation, I wonder how the Saudis react other than refuting the findings with some lofty conspiracy charges.

These are all signs that a crisis is brewing between Ankara and Riyadh. The Saudis underestimated the probable complications of their action.

Even if the murder was carried out on the premises of the consulate, which is a territory under Saudi jurisdiction, it has to be considered as an act of extrajudicial killing and totally incompatible with diplomatic code of conduct. What might be the response of the Saudis to a probable Turkish decision to declare the consul-general persona non grata? Perhaps the Saudis will retaliate and send a Turkish diplomat home as well. What will come next?

International rights groups have always been complaining that the Saudi regime routinely resorts to draconian laws to crack down on peaceful dissent at home. Well aware of the crimes of the Wahhabi regime, as well as the allegations of its role in many heinous crimes, preferred so far to play the role of the three monkeys. Interests, of course, speak louder than values and norms.

The Turkish investigation must be supplemented with a probe by the International Court of Justice. After all, does Islam not teach that the murder of one innocent is tantamount to the murder of the entire humanity?

If proven that the Saudis indeed carried out an extrajudicial killing in Istanbul, perhaps the international community this time should stop its deafening silence on the Saudi crackdown on fundamental rights, headed by freedom of expression.