Turkey’s Erdoğan may have known Khashoggi was going to be killed - analysis

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might have been aware of Saudi plans to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as evidence suggests Turkish intelligence followed the incident from its planning stage, analyst Andrew Cockburn wrote in the American Conservative on Tuesday.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and a vocal critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018.

Erdoğan, the president of the world’s top jailer of journalists according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, saw Khashoggi’s murder as an opportunity for leverage against bin Salman and to drive a wedge between Riyadh and Washington, Cockburn said. 

The Turkish president said Khashoggi’s murder was the most influential and controversial incident since the attacks on September 11, 2001, in an op-ed he wrote for the Washington Post on Monday. “Turkey’s response to The Post contributing columnist’s killing is based on our desire to uphold the rules-based international system,” Erdoğan said. 

But transcripts of audio recordings leaked by Turkish pro-government newspaper Sabah shows that the Turkish intelligence followed the planning, as well as the execution, of Khashoggi’s murder over the course of several days, and almost certainly in real time, said Cockburn.

“Erdoğan himself may very well have been just as guilty of the monstrous crime of Khashoggi’s murder as Mohammed bin Salman and his team of killers,” he said referring to leaked conversations. 

“Given Khashoggi’s prominence as a journalist and close relations with the Turkish regime at its highest levels, the operative question is surely: what did Erdogan know about the murder plan and when did he know it,” Cockburn said. 

“If Turkish intelligence was keeping him informed, why was Khashoggi allowed to be ‘sacrificed?’” he asked. “Could it be that the Turks might have prevented this grisly nightmare but chose not to for geopolitical purposes?”