Moments ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a highly anticipated speech in which he had pledged to unveil the “naked truth” about what happened to Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

As it happens, he kept some clothes on the story after all. Mr. Erdogan did divulge details suggesting the murder was a meticulously planned “political killing,” an accusation that directly contradicts Riyadh’s explanation that Khashoggi died accidentally after a kidnapping attempt went haywire. But Mr. Erdogan pointedly did not reveal any of the gruesome audio and video recordings of the crime that his top intel officials have reportedly obtained. And he did not mention Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by name.

While his speech lacked the fireworks and clarity that some had expected, it was a shrewd move to reveal less than he may truly know about the affair. This approach gives him ongoing leverage in three areas:

First, regional politics: Ankara and Riyadh have been at odds at least since 2011, when Erdogan’s support for Islamist political parties during the Arab Spring infuriated the Gulf monarchies and other regional dictatorships who saw the democratic uprisings as a threat. Ankara’s deepening ties with Iran and Qatar have rankled the Saudis as well. The Khashoggi killing has been a “gift from God” to Erdogan, giving him an unexpected point of leverage over his Riyadh rivals.

Second, domestic politics: The brazenness of killing someone within Turkey is, on its face, an affront to the country’s sovereignty. Doubly so since Turkey has made a point of shielding Islamist dissidents (like Khashoggi) from persecution in their home countries. With an economic crisis lingering at home, the spat with Saudi Arabia also offers a welcome distraction for the Turkish president. He has demanded that Turkey be permitted to conduct its own investigation – if that probe is thwarted, Erdogan has lots more to say.

Third, crackdown on press freedoms, what crackdown on press freedoms? By positioning himself as a truth-teller on the Khashoggi affair, Erdogan can distract from growing concerns in Europe and (at least beneath the presidential level) the United States, about his deepening authoritarianism. Never mind that Turkey still jails more writers than any other country on earth – helping Western capitals get to the bottom of Mr. Khashoggi’s death would win President Erdogan some breathing space. Erdogan still has that power.

In all, Mr. Erdogan may have let down expectations of a big gruesome reveal – but his real audience here isn’t us, it’s the Saudis. They know what he knows. And he knows they know it.

Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.

"He is speaking to us with a kind of force and clarity...that to me is just so enduring." - Ken Burns

No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?

More Show less

For Michael Chertoff, former US secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, the fact that America has not experienced a single attack by foreign terrorists since 9/11 proves that the US was "successful" in its strategy to prevent terrorism. That "was not [an] accident and there was a deterrent effect to be honest — had we been lax, more would have tried." Although he admits the US government wasn't transparent enough about the intelligence it was collecting, Chertoff credits US intelligence agencies with helping to foil the plot to blow up airplanes mid-air from Heathrow to the US in 2006. The US mission in Iraq, or what came after was not clearly thought out, according to Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The Iraq war made it difficult to focus on the US mission in Afghanistan and absorbed resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere, he said.

Watch the full episode: Is America safer since 9/11?

Listen: In a frank interview on the GZERO World podcast, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

More Show less

As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

More Show less

For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

"Pandemic" was the most used word of 2020. "Delta" looks set to inherit this year's title.

Vaccination rates are ticking up slowly. Governments aren't talking to each other enough. Parts of the world are back to normal, while others are still locked down.

Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT

Our speakers:

Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Visit to watch on the day of the event.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

UNGA 76: Vaccines, climate, crises


UN Chief: Still time to avert climate “abyss”

GZERO World Clips


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal