Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Oct. 16. Photo: Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

As Saudi Arabia went on the defensive last week about Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged murder, Ankara seized the chance to repair relations with Washington by releasing U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson. “We feel much different about Turkey today than we did yesterday,” President Trump told reporters on Saturday, expressing his hope of “having a very, very good relationship.”

The big picture: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long wanted Turkey to supplant Saudi Arabia as the dominant power in the Middle East. The Khashoggi affair has presented a unique opportunity to undermine Saudi influence, potentially creating a regional power void for Turkey to fill.

Background: The emergence of Turkey as a rival Middle East power traces back to the Arab Spring, when the Turks supported Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government and the Saudis bitterly opposed it. Erdogan is an Islamist; many like-minded political parties in the region look to him for leadership, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has accused him of trying to “reinstate the Islamic Caliphate” of the Ottoman Empire.

MBS spent the past year — and millions of dollars — positioning himself as a golden boy in Washington, just as Erdogan and Trump came to blows over the jailed American pastor, resulting in crippling sanctions and a nadir in U.S.-Turkey relations.

For Erdogan, Khashoggi’s death couldn’t have happened at a better moment. The day after, Erdogan gave a speech in which his ambition for regional leadership was on full display. The gruesome details of Khashoggi’s murder trickled out, punctuating the claims of Turkish officials and their allies that the Saudi-Emirati-U.S. alliance was morally bankrupt.

Between the lines: The Trump administration’s approach to the region has also fueled Turkey’s rise, transforming the war against ISIS into a confrontation with regional rival Iran and blessing the Saudi-Emirati siege of U.S. ally Qatar. In response, Turkey sent troops to protect Qatar and is coordinating with Iran in the Syrian conflict, solidifying a new axis of influence. With Saudi Arabia on the ropes over Khashoggi, Erdogan has more opportunities to ramp up his influence in Washington and the Arab world.

The bottom line: Ironically, it is Erdogan, a strongman who hates the media almost as much as Trump, who could find himself the biggest beneficiary of Western outrage over a journalist’s murder.

Lawrence Pintak is a professor at Washington State University, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and the author of “The New Arab Journalist."

Go deeper

47 mins ago - Axios on HBO

Preview: "Axios on HBO" interviews White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond

On the next episode of "Axios on HBO," Axios co-founder Mike Allen interviews White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond.

  • Catch the full interview and much more on Sunday, February 28 at 6 pm. ET/PT on all HBO platforms.
2 hours ago - World

Italy tightens COVID restrictions as experts warn of growing prevalence of variants

Health workers prepare vaccine doses in Iseo, Italy. Photo: Stefano Nicoli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Italy on Saturday announced it was tightening restrictions in five of the country's 20 regions in an effort curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

3 hours ago - Health

Health care in the New Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As America emerges from the pandemic, here's a special Axios AM Deep Dive on the Biden administration's health care agenda.