Three weeks after the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, not the leader of the free world was the head of the international indignation, but the president of Turkey.
According to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, any concealment of the true perpetrators of such an attack would “be an offense to the conscience of mankind”.
The contrast with the cooler reaction of US President Donald Trump, who said that Erdogan was “quite harsh with Saudi Arabia”, highlights the post-Cold War global changes. Washington’s global leadership is weakening as well as its promotion of the so-called foreign policy-based values.
This is also illustrated by the nature of the Khashoggi murder – committed by state officials of an American ally on the territory of another country.
It is clear that the US is playing an ever lesser role in what is happening around the world than in the 1990s.
This is also evident in the Middle East, where political clashes over the Khashoggi’s murder raised the question of whether Saudi Arabia could become the next geo-political player in the region to escape from the US grip.
At an event today, Turkey will host a summit with the leaders of Russia, Germany and France on the issue of the return of migrants to Syria. The United States will not be there. Similarly, Washington has missed the main talks to end the seven-year Syrian war involving Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to power after a coup in 2013, has limited his country’s dependence on the US by buying Russian weapons. Earlier this month, he signed a strategic partnership agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and accepted a 25 billion USD loan for the construction of nuclear power plants.
Meanwhile, Iran finds some support in European allies, as well as in China and Russia.
The authorities in Riyadh, which according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute last year bought 3.4 billion USD of US arms, have already taken steps towards Russia – a returning player in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has begun to work more closely with Moscow on oil price formation, and until recently has been negotiating the purchase of Russian C-400 missile defense systems – the same, for which Turkey has been threatening to get sanctions from the United States.
But the Saudi regime is unlikely to withdraw suddenly from the United States. A complete withdrawal from the US umbrella in the security sphere will take years. This is because such a move would be perceived by the wider circle of the Saudi royal family as a threat.
Indeed, changes in the Middle East are becoming slower than many believe.
Russia may have taken control of Syria, but the status quo is almost unchanged.