ISTANBUL: Analysts say the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi can help Muslim Brotherhood backer Turkey to emerge as a leader of the Muslim world at the expense of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and its allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have been at odds with Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdogan over many issues among which Muslim Brotherhood is at its top. Saudi Arabia and its allies consider Brotherhood as a terrorist group.
The killing inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul by a team sent from Riyadh on Oct 2 has already severely tarnished Saudi Arabia’s global reputation.
But the reported involvement of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the region can permanently damage Riyadh’s influence in the region.
Saudi Arabia finally admitted that the journalist was killed in a rouge operation after insisting for many days the journalist left the consulate unharmed before going missing.
Analysts say Erdogan could use the ensuing crisis to weaken the 33-year-old prince, even potentially leading to the royal family removing him from power — though that seems unlikely.
“The killing of Khashoggi has proven to be a golden opportunity for President Erdogan to pressure Saudi Arabia and work towards presenting Turkey as the new leader of the Muslim world,” said Lina Khatib, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House.
“The Khashoggi crisis is a big geo-political gamble for Turkey and so far it looks like it is playing the game masterfully. But Turkey alone will not be able to push for the removal of MBS. The ball lies in the American court,” she added.
For Erdogan, promoting the Muslim Brotherhood — which Saudi Arabia has sought to marginalise in the Arab world and which was ousted from power and brutally repressed in Egypt in 2013 by current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — is at the heart of this power struggle.
The Turkish leader could also try to extract concessions from Riyadh for its ally Qatar, facing a Saudi blockade backed by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt since 2017.
“I think that Erdogan sees this as an opportunity to push back against a triple entente in the Middle East that opposes his policies. That triple entente is composed of MBS, MBZ’s (Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan) UAE and Sisi’s Egypt,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey Research Program at the Washington Institute.
“These three countries, all Arabs, oppose Erdogan’s policies of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Now Erdogan sees a golden opportunity because MBS is vulnerable.”