(CN) – After weeks of leaked details and Saudi denials, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to reveal on Tuesday the “naked truth” behind the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
As to how much detail comes to light, however, experts from three countries told Courthouse News that the key lies in behind-the-scenes geopolitical bargaining.
An Istanbul-based journalist who sits on the European Council on Foreign Relations, Asli Aydintasbas for one predicted that that the broad outlines of stories trickling out from the Turkish government will be proven accurate.
"Some of the gory details may be different, but there's no doubt that he was murdered by the Saudi hit team sent by MBS," said Aydintasbas, using an abbreviation for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
Perhaps one of the grisliest details from Turkey’s Khashoggi probe earned MBS a new moniker: “Mr. Bone Saw.”
According to a Turkish investigator quoted everywhere from the country’s pro-government media to The New York Times, that is the implement that agents from a 15-member member assassination squad used to dismember Khashoggi’s tortured body.
“The gruesome details just make for good television, good media,” observed University of Waterloo professor Bessma Momani, a Canadian fellow at the Washington-based think tank Stimson Center.
“A lot of my nonpolitical friends, who would never know anything about what’s happening in the world, seem to be interested in knowing ‘Did they really chop off his fingers while he was alive?’” she added.
That particular rumor came from the Turkish daily Yeni Safak, a de-facto mouthpiece for the Erdogan government with a long history of publishing fabrications. Most U.S. news stories quoting Turkish state media note that the country has a tightly controlled press, largely owned by the Erdogan family and his business partners.
Momani, who also advises skepticism about Turkish state media sources, predicted that more hard evidence would emerge - but only if Erdogan wants it to become public.
“Let me simplify it for you: The tapes will be released if the Saudis don’t pay the right price,” she said.
For Gonul Tol, the director of the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies, the ebb and flow of the leaks tracked Turkey’s bargaining with the U.S. and Saudi governments. The first stream of reports brought Saudi Arabia to admit what it had denied for two weeks: that Khashoggi was killed inside their consulate on Oct. 2.
“But I think after President Trump signaled that he was buying the Saudi narrative that this was the work of ‘rogue killers,’ Turkey’s hand was somewhat weakened,” Tol said in an interview. “That’s why we started seeing the leaks started again after a brief hold.”
Though Saudi Arabia has arrested 18 suspects, it initially tried to distance the crown prince from Khashoggi’s killing by claiming the 59-year-old intellectual had died in a “fist fight” that escalated. Updating that story Sunday, a Saudi official said that Khashoggi died in a chokehold.
Saudi Arabia’s shape-shifting narrative only forced the U.S. president on Monday, however, to back down from his endorsement of the kingdom.
“I am not satisfied with what I’ve heard," Trump said today while departing the White House for a campaign rally in Texas. "We're going to get to the bottom of it.”