Jamal Khashoggi is a victim of brutal Middle East politics

The ...

Posted: Oct 8, 2018 4:56 PM
Updated: Oct 8, 2018 4:56 PM

The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week remains a mystery.

There is a startling lack of detail concerning his whereabouts.

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Eastern Europe

Europe

Government and public administration

Iran

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

North America

Political Figures - Intl

Political Figures - US

Politics

Russia

Saudi Arabia

Syria

Syria conflict

The Americas

Turkey

United Arab Emirates

United States

Unrest, conflicts and war

Vladimir Putin

But what's clear is that -- whatever has happened to Khashoggi -- this story lies at the nexus of increasing power games and regional rivalries across the Middle East, where the space for dissent and opposition to the ruling elites is shrinking fast.

The Turkish-Saudi relationship is but one part of this.

These two powers are nominally western allies. Both were initially opposed to the Syrian regime in the now seven-year civil war taking place in that country. But they also have very different ideas as to what the endgame looks like for Syria.

Turkey has been keen to manage its relationship with the Saudis, while being more critical of the Saudis' key regional partner, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The two nations have significantly different geopolitical priorities, while both are trying to become the leading Sunni power in the region.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and its Shia rival Iran are currently engaged in a furious cold war, being fought principally in Yemen and before that in Syria. (The Saudis have also tried to limit Iranian influence in both Iraq and Lebanon.)

As part of this growing pressure on Iran, Saudi Arabia -- together with Israel and other allies -- aggressively lobbied President Donald Trump to rip up the Iran nuclear deal of 2015. Most of these nations almost certainly would relish a US-led attack on Iran.

By way of contrast, Turkey has an important relationship with Iran, despite being very different regimes. Iran is an Islamist Shia theocratic state whereas Turkey is Sunni albeit under increasingly autocratic and de-secularized rule.

Turkey benefits hugely from trade with Iran, which it is not prepared to see stop, given its current need for oil and gas.

When it comes to Syria's future, Iran is happy to let Turkey get its way over the Kurds if Turkey agrees to Iran's role in the country and the survival of the Assad regime.

Further to their disputes over Iran, Turkey and the Saudis disagree vehemently over political Islam. Erdogan has broadly supported the Muslim Brotherhood and encouraged the Arab uprisings from 2010-2012, events that Saudi Arabia viewed with alarm.

Erdogan was opposed to the 2013 coup in Egypt, which saw the removal of the pro-Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi -- a change that Saudi Arabia and the UAE backed.

Both the Saudis and Emiratis want to see the Muslim Brotherhood crushed. This is one of the root causes in its quarrel with neighboring Gulf state Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain imposed a blockade on Qatar in May 2017. Turkey and Iran came to Qatar's aid, with Iran becoming a major trade partner in essential goods including food, while Turkey dispatched forces to Qatar in order to deter any aggression.

But even within these new regional blocs, supposed allies disagree on vital issues. Egypt has become closer to the Syrian regime in recent years and has not participated in the war in Yemen. The UAE is more focused on the Muslim Brotherhood than the Saudis.

And, of course, both the US and Russia are playing increasingly important roles in these regional rivalries.

Under Presidents Trump and Vladimir Putin, both the US and Russia have engaged in a Middle East power struggle where the rulebook has been long forgotten.

Putin has tried to fill the vacuum left by a more isolationist US. Russia intervention in the Syrian civil war has given it a far more prominent role in the region. This is useful when you consider that it covets greater influence in Egypt and in the Gulf.

Under Trump, the US has hardly calmed the regional waters. The relationship with Saudi Arabia -- particularly the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman -- has rarely been warmer, albeit not always smooth.

Being close to Trump was one of the things Khashoggi criticized his leadership for. (The Saudis were not impressed with Trump telling King Salman: "You might not be there for two weeks without us.")

And when Trump moved the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, it did far more than just raise eyebrows in Riyadh.

Conversely, US-Turkish relations are borderline Siberian. Erdogan is flirting openly with Putin, going as far as buying Russian S-400 antiaircraft missiles, greatly upsetting NATO allies. Turkey has also the US arming what it sees as Kurdish terrorist groups.

So, when a Saudi journalist and critic goes missing in Istanbul -- and both states blame the other -- the story trespasses on one of the great fault lines of regional power politics.

Don't expect this drama to end amicably -- or soon.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 122168

Reported Deaths: 4444
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles596922532
Riverside8303345
San Diego7798283
Orange6783165
San Bernardino5650209
Alameda364197
Santa Clara2850144
San Francisco264443
Imperial249330
Kern246245
San Mateo224484
Tulare208392
Fresno194437
Santa Barbara171414
Contra Costa154738
Sacramento149058
Ventura119035
Kings11876
San Joaquin102436
Stanislaus79230
Monterey62110
Sonoma5934
Solano55922
Marin52517
Merced3107
San Luis Obispo2881
Placer2599
Santa Cruz2192
Yolo21624
Madera1293
Napa1263
Humboldt1044
El Dorado980
San Benito962
Butte601
Nevada491
Sutter482
Del Norte470
Shasta404
Mono371
Mendocino330
Yuba311
Lake300
Inyo201
Glenn170
Calaveras160
Mariposa161
Amador100
Siskiyou90
Colusa70
Tehama61
Tuolumne50
Lassen50
Plumas40
Alpine20
Sierra10
Trinity10
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 78°
Oroville
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 74°
Paradise
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 78°
Chester
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 51°
Red Bluff
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 71°
Willows
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 78°
We're finally seeing some relief from the heat on the way for your Friday. We'll be around 10 degrees cooler than Thursday on Friday and clouds will be returning for your afternoon. Much cooler with the chance for active weather on the way for your weekend.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events