Ragıp Soylu, Washington based journalist spoke to Global Daily News regarding the Trump administration and Khashoggi incident. Soylu followed the Khashoggi murder closely and he was one of the few journalists who had direct communication with Turkish officials while monitoring Trump administration’s reaction to the Khashoggi murder.
President Trump says US stands with Saudi Arabia despite journalist Khashoggi’s killing while Congress and US mainstream media is criticizing administration’s Saudi policy. Do you think Trump will be able to save Saudi relations and Bin Salman?
Is it very likely that he will be able to save Saudi alliance with the United States and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. In any case, US-Saudi relations weren’t threatened, Trump could simply back one of the competing parties within the House of Saud and facilitate a change of power. Trump has all the cards he needs in this relationship; US intel has extensive ties with Saudi security establishment and US assistance to Riyadh is essential for the country’s security in the region. So it was up to the president to decide what to do really. And he decided to support MBS.
Now reportedly CIA concluded with high confidence that Saudi crown prince Muhammed Bin Salman ordered the Khashoggi’s death. The report comes in a time that Trump is trying to hold on to Saudi relations, do you think this report will play any role on Trump’s policy?
Trump has an attitude of dismissing any information or intelligence undermining his position, whatever it might be. I don’t think CIA’s conclusion would have any significant impact on his decision making. Probably now he is including that assessment as a factor that he needs to take into consideration when dealing with the public and media, but he wouldn’t go further than that. He is adamant to save the billions of dollar worth of weapons sale deal with Saudis. Riyad has become an indispensable partner in Trump’s anti Iran strategy. They pumped more oil to keep the prices lower after the huge Iranian cutback due to US sanctions. Don’t also forget the fact that Saudi are also now silently cooperating with Israel, and Riyadh likely to play a role in the Palestinian peace process. Trump might have second thoughts about the possible replacement of MBS, since his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Israeli PM Netanyahu reportedly backed the Crown Prince and warned Trump about possible consequences about his downfall.
Can you also tell us what exactly Turkey is doing right now in terms of media leaks on Khashoggi’s tragic death, do you think Turkey’s strategy works?
Turkey had three primary objecives in the beggining of this affair. One, Ankara wanted to push Saudis to take the responsibility of the killing. Secondly, they wished to see Saudi government running an investigation and come up with names of the suspects. Thirdly, American pressure was very important. Several Turkish officials told me in early October that Magnistky Sanctions must be applied to Saudi suspects. Turkey succeeded in all of these three aims.
What’s next now? Turkey is pressuring, Saudis are keep changing their story. How do you think Ankara, Washington and Riyad will be on the same page post Khashoggi case?
Turkey didn’t officially confront Saudi Arabia; diplomatically kept the relations intact, several diplomatic conversations were maintained at the peak of the crisis. Yet, it is very likely that the bilateral relations would be strained over this crisis, yet it won’t be publicly displayed. It is almost impossible to have both countries in complete agreement on this issue because it would lead the removal of MBS from power, something King Salman would never do unless he is pressured by the US.!
Saudi regime’s Yemen policy is highly criticized by international community, kidnapping Hariri was big story, Bin Salman silenced all the oppositions. But Khashoggi case is now a topic directly threatening Bin Salman’s position. Yes, this is a horrific story, but why do you think international community, particularly westerners gave more attention this story?
It was a mulficated crisis with intruguing twists. In the beginning, it was a mysterious disappearance of a prominent Saudi critic following a visit at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. It involved a crime, whether a kidnapping or a murder. It was political. Trump has this war going on with media, and his son-in-law Kushner is deeply involved with the primary suspect behind the gruesome murder of a Washington Post columnist. So it had every element it needed to get the Western attention. Someone from the Washington elite has been killed, and journalists followed the course.
ANIL SURAL / GLOBAL DAILY NEWS