A fork in the road between the US and Saudi Arabia?

Yasin AktayBY: Yasin Aktay

 If the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was committed using all the means of the Saudi Arabian government, then those who commissioned it can theoretically be distinguished from the state, regardless of their positions. It could have been possible to manage the situation in a way that did not attribute the murder to the Saudi Arabian state if those involved, regardless of their position, were brought to justice. However, at this point, Saudi Arabia is increasingly losing this chance.

Opinions from the very beginning that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is mainly responsible and the instigator of the incident are becoming stronger, and the more these beliefs develop the more this situation becomes great pressure against the Saudi Arabian state. As time passes and the tide is turning against him, it is becoming clearer that Crown Prince Salman’s approach to kill time will not help.

His expectation that “Everybody will forget this incident in time and we can use our money to repair our reputation, and as a matter of fact, conduct extra image operations as we wish” is not working. This policy the crown prince had the chance to try for the first time at the G20 summit, went against his expectations and added fuel to the fire of a campaign against him. The dealings he faced in Egypt and Tunis and then Algeria and Mauritania before Argentina shows that things will continue to further and further off the rails by the day.

The determination among all Republicans and Democrats following the CIA chief’s congressional briefing should also be taken into account. The red notice issued in the investigation being conducted by the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office for two of the crown prince’s closest men is a strong signal that nothing is over yet on this front.

Realizing that this murder provides an opportunity to pressure Saudi Arabia over some of its policies may lead to the rightful question, “Didn’t they all act jointly anyway?” Perhaps the nature of addictive relations between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. must be more seriously questioned. Regardless of how jointly they are acting, nothing is taking course exactly the way the U.S. or Saudi Arabia wants. This collaboration can sometimes drag one another into situations neither of them expected or planned.

Frankly, the matter currently questioned in the U.S. is what kind of a quagmire they may have gotten themselves into in the Middle East based on the excessive trust in Saudi Arabia’s alliance.

It is apparent that Saudi Arabia sold its anti-Iran, anti-Muslim Brotherhood, and anti-democracy stance for a high price to the U.S., despite all its financial support. The companionship established with Saudi Arabia on the anti-Iran stance and for the sake of normalizing relations with Israel has made the U.S. a partner in crime in the massacres in Yemen, the anti-democracy coups, the systematic violations of human rights in the Middle East region and the Khashoggi murder. Beril Dedeoğlu summarizes this in one sentence: “The Saudis used the power they obtained from the U.S. in a way detrimental to the U.S.”

Currently, everyone in the U.S. is aware of this, and they are searching for a return route. It appears that this pursuit will also determine Crown Prince Salman’s future.

Sean Penn’s Khashoggi documentary

The Khashoggi murder has become a topic that concerns not only politics but also the art world as well. It is possible to say that many sectors from cinema to literature and from poetry to music are going to produce works reflecting their interest in the topic. Many poems and stories have been written in this regard. We should expect a serious mindset and atmosphere change as interest in the matter increases and varies.

Last Tuesday, Oscar award winner and Hollywood actor Sean Penn came to Turkey for the preparations of a documentary he decided to film about the Khashoggi murder. He actually planned this visit a lot earlier and had asked to meet me 20 days ago. However, he had to postpone his visit because he could not enter his home for some time as it is located very close to where the California wildfire ravaged, and his mother’s house was also somewhat impacted by the fire.

Penn is a sensible actor known for his opposition to his country’s unjust policies.

He found the U.S. President Donald Trump administration’s approach to covering this murder for money disgraceful on behalf of his country, and rolled up his sleeves to show his response against this. He believes that this matter should remain on the agenda until justice is served and came to Turkey to observe the places the incident took place, to personally listen to those involved and prepare for the documentary.

I hosted him in my office at the Justice and Development (AK) Party headquarters. That room was where I received the first phone call from Khashoggi’s fiancé Hatice Cengiz about him entering the consulate a few hours ago with no sign of his reemergence, and also where I made all the necessary phone calls to notify authorities of the situation. I witnessed how Penn carefully observed the entire room with extra sensitivity upon being informed of this.

I was quite impressed by Penn’s art and political activism. The responsibility and sensitivity he is displaying for the sake of taking action for the values he believes in, regardless of his position, is worthy of great admiration. Just in case someone asks, I want to add that Penn stated he has no material expectations, and that any profits from the documentary will be donated to a foundation or project to honor Khashoggi.

Of course, upon hearing about Penn’s visit and decision to make a documentary, the army of trolls and media affiliated with Saudi Arabia and the UAE lost no time in launching a smear campaign. The campaign says Penn is a secret Muslim who supports terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Penn is known to have supported the Arab Spring process. That is why individual photos of myself and Penn at Tahrir Square were put side by side by these trolls to produce a certain perception. It is obvious the kind of message this will give and to whom.

There are reports and information that Penn’s interest in the Khashoggi murder is going to continue with other examples.

These examples are a sign that the dimensions of the incident are going to further develop. We will share these examples when the time comes.