While publicly, President Trump has said he is developing serious opinions about the Saudi murder of reporter Jamal Khashoggi, in reality the administration’s goal is just to get Turkey to back down and leave the Saudis alone.
Turkey isn’t going to just ignore the murder for free, however, and the White House is said to be exploring pretexts to expel exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a long-time rival of the Turkish president, in hopes that would make Turkey so happy they’ll forgive and forget about Khashoggi, and all the uncomfortable implications it would have for US foreign policy.
Gulen has been living in exile in the US since the 1990s, and Turkey has sought his extradition for years, blaming him for a failed military coup. The US has refused to extradite him without Turkey providing evidence of wrongdoing, at least in the past.
Now, Khashoggi may be just as good as evidence Gulen did anything. Career officials are said to be pushing back against the White House plans, and Turkey is insisting there should be no connection between their Gulen demands and the Khashoggi murder.
The administration seems pretty sure it’s worth a try, however, and that kicking Gulen out, assuming they can find a justification, would do something worthwhile for US-Turkey relations.