A leaked UAE intelligence document shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been pursuing a “strategic plan” aimed at weakening the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has adopted a tough position against Riyadh over the state-sponsored assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Entitled “Monthly Report on Saudi Arabia, Issue 24, May 2019,” the confidential document was written by the Emirates Policy Centre and obtained by the Middle East Eye news portal.
It revealed that bin Salman had decided to confront Turkey following the murder of Khashoggi — an outspoken critic of the heir to the Saudi throne — by a Saudi hit team inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.
Ankara has been pressing the Saudis, in vain, to cooperate in a probe into the crime, which Erdogan says has been ordered by the highest ranks of authorities in Riyadh. The CIA has concluded that bin Salman had ordered the murder of Khashoggi — who had been brutally dismembered inside Riyadh’s mission.
According to the leaked document, the Saudi scheme involves mounting pressure on Erdogan’s administration, slashing Saudi investment in Turkey and sidelining Ankara in issues of the Muslim world.
The plan would use “all possible tools to pressure Erdogan’s government, weaken him, and keep him busy with domestic issues in the hope that he will be brought down by the opposition, or occupy him with confronting crisis after crisis, and push him to slip up and make mistakes which the media would surely pick up on,” read the document.
“The kingdom would start to target the Turkish economy and press towards the gradual termination of Saudi investment in Turkey, the gradual decrease of Saudi tourists visiting Turkey while creating alternative destinations for them, decreasing Saudi import of Turkish goods, and most importantly minimizing Turkish regional role in Islamic matters,” it added.
The Emirati report also accused Erdogan of having gone “too far in his campaign smearing the kingdom, especially the person of the crown prince, using in the most reprehensible manner the case of Khashoggi.”
It further claimed that Turkey had not provided “specific and honest” information to assist the “Saudi investigation” into the killing, but instead leaked “disinformation” to the media “aimed at distorting the image of the kingdom and ... the reputation of the crown prince.”
In June, Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, presented findings of her six-month investigation into Khashoggi’s murder case, backing up Ankara’s views on the murder and the CIA findings.
In her 101-page report, she said that there is “sufficient credible evidence” indicating that the Saudi crown prince bears responsibility for the murder and thus should be investigated.
Under Riyadh’s campaign against Ankara, the number of Saudi tourists to Turkey has decreased while the kingdom has blocked Turkish exports and excluded Erdogan from a recent Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Mecca.
A senior Turkish official, speaking anonymously, said that his country was aware of the Saudi strategy as the kingdom had openly called for a boycott.
“It is almost public, to the extent that you could see their activities on Saudi-backed social media and Saudi state media,” he said. “Tourist arrivals are decreasing, while we are having problems related to Turkish exports. We are closely following the situation.”