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Saudi King Salman reportedly intervening to ease tensions after Khashoggi's disappearance

Reuters has reported that King Salman bin Abdulaziz has stepped in to try to defuse the tensions that have developed following the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. (Lintao Zhang/Pool/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has reportedly intervened to try to solve the growing issues surrounding the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

What happened to Jamal Khashoggi?

Khashoggi disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2 in Istanbul. He had been trying to finalize his divorce so that he could marry his fiancée. He frequently criticized the Saudi regime and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, including in his Washington Post column.

The Turkish government has claimed to have evidence that Saudi assassins killed Khashoggi after he entered the consulate. They have also named 15 Saudi men that they believe to be involved. Four of these men have ties to the Saudi royal family and the crown prince.

Why is King Salman getting involved?

According to a report from Reuters, which cited five anonymous sources "with links to the Saudi royal family," King Salman has sent his nephew Prince Khaled al-Faisal, the governor of the Muslim holy city of Mecca and his most trusted aide, to Turkey to try to ease tensions that have been building between the two nations.

It was during this visit that Turkish and Saudi officials agreed to a joint investigation into Khashoggi's death. One of the sources behind this report told Reuters, "The selection of Khaled, a senior royal with high status, is telling as he is the king’s personal adviser, his right hand man and has had very strong ties and a friendship with [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan."

King Salman bin Abdulaziz took over after his half brother, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, died in 2015. Both these kings were sons of King Abdulaziz ibn Saud who founded the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with King Salman on Tuesday. According to a news release from the State Department, the two men talked about the partnership between the two countries, and Pompeo “thanked the King for his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.”

Before this incident, the king had handed over much of the day-to-day operations of his kingdom over to the crown prince. While Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (referred to colloquially as MBS) has been praised for his reforms to the nation's financial institutions, and his loosening of restrictions on things like cinema and women driving, he has also been ruthless against anyone he considered to be standing in the way of his rise to power.

What else?

The sources who spoke to Reuters said that King Salman was not initially aware of how bad the situation had gotten. One of the sources said, "The king started asking aides and MbS about it. MbS had to tell him and asked him to intervene when Khashoggi’s case became a global crisis."

Another source, who reportedly has links to the Saudi royal court, speculated to Reuters that this incident could have implications for the future of the crown prince.

"Even if he is his favorite son, the king needs to have a comprehensive view for his survival and the survival of the royal family," the source said.

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