Opinion digest: Who profits from Khashoggi's murder?

MEP Urmas Paet (Reform/ALDE).
MEP Urmas Paet (Reform/ALDE). Source: Sander Koit/ERR

In an opinion piece published in daily Postimees, MEP Urmas Paet (Reform/ALDE), reflects on the effects on international relations of the 2 October murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

According to Paet, Khashoggi's murder puts a light on at least three important elements of international relations in the near future: relations between Turkey, Saudi Arabia and their allies, relations between Saudi Arabia and many Western countries, including European ones, and the future of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), who is suspected of ordering the hit.

Paet noted that Turkish-Saudi relations have been complicated enough over the past decade, citing for example Turkey's support of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is opposed by Saudi Arabia, and the latter's ties to the fall of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, an ally of Turkey and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a coup d'état in 1993. He believed that Saudi Arabia's murdering of Khashoggi in the middle of Istanbul was a move calculated to demonstrate that it couldn't care less about Turkish authorities or laws.

"And Turkey unfortunately wants to maximise its profit off of the resulting situation, considering the complicated past of its relations with Saudi Arabia and their rivalry in the Islamic world," he added.

According to the MEP, European and other Western countries' future relations with Saudi Arabia are in great danger. "It is very difficult for the public opinion of democratic countries to swallow the continuing of arms deals with Saudi Arabia in a situation in which the country's de facto leader is suspected of the raw murder of a journalist," he said.

He recognised that this was a complicated situation for a number of European governments, as arms deals to Saudi Arabia account for significant export figures, and Saudi Arabia in turn is a key exporter of oil as well as a regional check on Iran. US President Donald Trump already announced that no arms deals should be abandoned. He added, however, that "it of course isn't possible for the leaders of European countries to so simply adopt an insensitive attitude as Trump did, which is why we can inevitably look forward to a cooling of relations between European countries and Saudi Arabia."

Regarding Saudi Arabia's own future, Paet said that MbS has de facto taken over ruling the country and is doing so with an iron fist, demonstrating his power with moves ranging from taking dozens of Saudi elite hostage in a luxury hotel to now the murder of a critical journalist in a Saudi consulate. "Bin Salman's style has been repressive and harsh, and this has already given cause to internal opposition which may strengthen further if complicated relations with Europe and other countries begin affecting the incomes of the elite, and the climate of fear is starting to boil over," he said, adding that rival Iran is rejoicing over the increasing risk of Saudi Arabia's own society destabilising.

"And so the already complicated Middle East is gaining yet another [source of] turbulence, the effects of which extend from the war in Yemen and Iran to the Saudis' relations with the US, Europe and Turkey," he concluded.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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