And it just keeps getting better.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to ratchet up the pressure on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
We’ve written voluminously here over the past month about just what it is Erdogan hopes to accomplish by leveraging Turkey’s investigation into the killing. Long story short, this has nothing to do with “justice” and everything to do with Erdogan making a regional power grab. Having cemented his own authority after consolidating power in June, Erdogan sees an opportunity to undermine bin Salman, in the process snatching victory from the jaws of defeat after the Arab Spring fizzled out. This is, at heart, a kind of revenge, exacted by Erdogan on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood and on behalf of Ankara’s allies in Doha.
Obviously, the idea of Erdogan as defender of press freedom and guardian of human rights is absurd in the extreme. His post-coup crackdown in Turkey could serve as a veritable blueprint for authoritarians seeking to stamp out dissent, and his hardline attitude towards unfriendly media outlets is legendary. We are, after all, talking about a man who once sued a physician for comparing him to Gollum from Lord of the Rings.
So there’s something highly amusing about watching the Turkish autocrat pretend to care about human dignity and press freedom as he turns the screws on Riyadh.
Well, on Friday afternoon, he penned an actual Op-Ed for the Washington Post or, more to the point, for the news outlet where Khashoggi was a columnist.
You can (and definitely should) read the entire column here, but on the off chance you haven’t ponied up the pennies/month it costs to subscribe to WaPo (go and do it), the highlights are below. Do try to appreciate the irony inherent in this coming from a man (Erdogan) whose press crackdowns are the stuff of dictatorial legend.
Via WaPo, By Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The story is all too familiar: Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and a family man, entered Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 for marriage formalities. No one – not even his fiancee, who was waiting outside the compound — has ever seen him again.
Over the course of the past month, Turkey has moved heaven and earth to shed light on all aspects of this case. As a result of our efforts, the world has learned that Khashoggi was killed in cold blood by a death squad, and it has been established that his murder was premeditated.
Yet there are other, no less significant questions whose answers will contribute to our understanding of this deplorable act. Where is Khashoggi’s body? Who is the “local collaborator” to whom Saudi officials claimed to have handed over Khashoggi’s remains? Who gave the order to kill this kind soul? Unfortunately, the Saudi authorities have refused to answer those questions.
We know that the perpetrators are among the 18 suspects detained in Saudi Arabia. We also know that those individuals came to carry out their orders: Kill Khashoggi and leave. Finally, we know that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government.
Some seem to hope this “problem” will go away in time. But we will keep asking those questions, which are crucial to the criminal investigation in Turkey, but also to Khashoggi’s family and loved ones. A month after his killing, we still do not know where his body is. At the very least, he deserves a proper burial in line with Islamic customs. We owe it to his family and friends, including his former colleagues at The Post, to give them an opportunity to say their goodbyes and pay their respects to this honorable man. To ensure that the world will keep asking the same questions, we have shared the evidence with our friends and allies, including the United States.