Turkish-Qatari silence about the content of a declassified US intelligence implicating the Saudi crown prince in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has reflected more than anything else the confused stances of Ankara and Doha on the issue.
The two countries’ lack of clear reactions underlined their inability to reject or approve the report’s content.
Analysts noted that Qatar was not among the countries that took official positions in support of Saudi Arabia in the face of heavy US pressure about the case.
This raised questions about the real impact of the reconciliation agreement reached during the Al-Ula summit in changing Qatari attitudes towards the kingdom, which was the agreement’s sponsor.
A vague readout about the phone call made Sunday by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz did not dispel the impression of confusion in Doha over Washington’s release of a CIA report on Khashoggi’s killing.
The Qatari emiri diwan indicated in a statement that “Sheikh Tamim expressed his country’s firm support for Saudi Arabia,” without any reference to the US intelligence report. The wording could be interpreted as an expression of support for Saudi Arabia in the face of Houthi missile and drone attacks. Doha’s unclear stance stood in contrast to the positions of other Gulf countries that unambiguously rejected the content of the US intelligence report.
Political sources interpreted Turkey’s silence on the matter as reflecting Ankara’s effort not to appear involved at this stage, despite the fact that many of the report’s passages were consistent with a narrative put forward by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself more than two years ago.
In an opinion piece published on November 2, 2018, by The Washington Post, Erdogan said, “We know the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government.”
He added, “I do not believe for a second that King Salman, the custodian of the holy mosques, ordered the hit on Khashoggi.”
The common thread in the US report, as well as information and positions emanating from Turkey on Khashoggi’s killing, a campaign waged by Muslim Brotherhood figures, especially those residing in Turkish territory, and Qatari media coverage of the case, is an intent to drag Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz into the case
Major General Mahmoud Mansour, one of the founders of the Qatari intelligence service, said that a large part of the US report “basically is a repeat of information previously published by Qatar amid its attempts to provoke Saudi Arabia. So there will be no public rejection of the report by Qatar because that would mean it would go in the opposite direction to the version it has promoted since Khashoggi was killed. ”
Mansour told The Arab Weekly that expecting Qatar to take a stance supportive of Saudi Arabia based on the results of the Al-Ula Gulf summit “is premature, because many of the terms of the reconciliation agreement have not been implemented, and have come in response to Trump’s wishes as he pressed for the signing of the agreement.”
Prior to the release of the classified report, US President Joe Biden called Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The US approach is similar to Turkey’s earlier stance of politically targeting Crown Prince Mohammed.
A Turkish source, who declined to be named, told The Arab Weekly “Erdogan’s silence about the report is understandable.”
“If he rejects the content’s report, he would be refuting his own previous narrative, which was almost identical to what the CIA has now put forward,” the source said. “And if he describes the report as objective or legitimate, or even merely expresses agreement with it, he would be shooting himself in the foot.”
The source said the US administration was likely in the coming weeks to “publish reports prepared by the CIA, similar to the Khashoggi report, about Erdogan’s crimes against the Kurds and the Fethullah Gulen group.”
According to the same source, it is expected that “details about Erdogan’s suspect relationship with extremist Islamic and terrorist groups abroad will be revealed. And if he takes a stance in support of the US report, he would be legitimising the reports that will be released by Washington soon.”
Ankara is trying to avoid getting tangled up in this scenario because this could damage the ruling system. Former US President Donald Trump had remained silent about Erdogan’s abuses in Syria, Iraq and Libya.
The Biden administration is likely to release such reports due to its unease about the human rights situation in Turkey.
As for Qatar, silence reflects conflicting considerations. Doha’s approval of the CIA report would deal a fatal blow to the reconciliation agreement, even if the release of the US intelligence report is the result Doha had hoped for since the Khashoggi’s killing, as reflected by its Arabic and English media at the height of Qatar’s dispute with Riyadh.