Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) is pursuing a “strategic plan” to “weaken” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the allegedly Sunni kingdom-sponsored assassination of Islamist journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Iran’s state-run media claimed this week.
The Iran state media reports are based on an allegedly leaked document from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) whose contents were first published by the London-based Middle East Eye (MEE) on Monday:
Saudi Arabia has begun implementing a “strategic plan” to confront the Turkish government, after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman decided he was being “too patient” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
The plan is detailed in a confidential report based on open- and closed-source intelligence prepared by the kingdom’s ally, the United Arab Emirates.
The intelligence report is one of a monthly series written by the Emirates Policy Centre, a think tank with close links to the Emirati government and security services.
Erdogan has repeatedly linked MBS, the de facto leader of oil-rich Saudi Arabia, to the death of the Saudi journalist. In June, the United Nations claimed to have found “credible evidence” that MBS ordered the murder.
The CIA, reports have claimed, also obtained evidence linking the Saudi Crown Prince to the Khashoggi killing. The Saudi government has rejected allegations of MBS’ involvement, claiming that rogue agents who panicked during a botched interrogation of the deceased killed and then dismembered him.
Citing the UAE document, the state-run Fars News Agency (FNA) reported Tuesday, “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 leaked document revealed that the plan would use:
[A]ll 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.
The document added:
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.
The alleged UAE report accused President Erdogan of going “too far” in smearing MBS.
“President Erdogan … went 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,” the report said.
Now, the Sunni kingdom is treating Erdogan “as an enemy,” the leaked documented claimed.
Erdogan has also accused Saudi Arabia of refusing to cooperate with Turkey’s investigation into the execution of Khashoggi.
So far, MBS has placed 11 people, including Saudi government officials, on trial over the murder.
MBS is trying to turn the page on an incident that has damaged the international image of the Crown Prince, who portrays himself as a reformer intent on modernizing his fundamentalist Islamic country. The court proceedings on the case are taking place in secret.
The alleged UAE document also accuses Turkey of tarnishing the reputations of Saudi Arabia by leaking “disinformation” to the media “aimed at distorting the image of the kingdom and … the reputation of the crown prince.”
A “senior Turkish official” who spoke on condition of anonymity told the state-run FNA that Turkey is aware of the Saudi strategy against Erdogan.
“It is almost public, to the extent that you could see their activities on Saudi-backed social media and Saudi state media. Tourist arrivals are decreasing, while we are having problems related to Turkish exports. We are closely following the situation,” the source said.
Saudi Arabia also excluded Erdogan from a recent 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Mecca.
The murder of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, sparked international outrage.
Iran’s state-run Tasnim News Agency reported:
Last week came the first public sign of the campaign detailed in the Emirati document coming to life.
Saudi authorities blocked 80 Turkish trucks transporting textile products and chemicals from entering the kingdom via its Duba port.
Three hundred containers carrying fruit and vegetables from Turkey had also been held in Jeddah port, according to a Turkish official who spoke to MEE on condition of anonymity.
Saudi Arabia has invested nearly $2 billion in Turkey, 2018 data from the Turkish foreign ministry showed