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He is as much a prisoner of his son as everyone else is.
They want to talk to you face to face." Perhaps it was because he had got away with so much already without so much as a rap over the knuckles that the reaction to Khashoggi's murder came as a bolt of lightning to the young prince.
To this day, he is struggling to find strategies to contain it. He personally called a senior figure in Turkish intelligence to invite him to Riyadh where he said: "This can be sorted out in an afternoon." The man refused. As the enormity of the crime grew, King Salman despatched his counsellor Prince Khaled al-Faisal to Ankara. Prince Khaled was allowed to listen to the 15-minute tape of Khashoggi's murder. Ever since, the twin strategy of bin Salman has been to distance himself from the events he himself put in train and to distract.
Al-Faisal dangled a series of offers in his meeting with Erdogan: Saudi could help Turkey with investments. Erdogan cut him off in mid-flow, according to an informed source. The claim he did not know about a murder arranged by the death squad he personally set up was always going to be doomed from the start.
That such a king, in such a condition, is in a position to question his son, who has seized total control of the country, is open to doubt.
However, the king, while he is still alive, remains the son's sole source of legitimacy. When Mohammad bin Salman realised he had gone too far in underwriting US President Donald Trump's Palestine-related "Deal of the Century," and the withdrawal of East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, the Palestinian file was reported to have been retrieved by the king.
To be seen today to be in the pocket of the Saudis is toxic for your brand, as the Financial Times, Softbank, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and a host of executives who dropped out of the Future Investment Initiative, dubbed Davos in the Desert, have all discovered. If MBS and his allies to the east and to the west think this is going away, they're delusional. pic.twitter.com/N7Zz UR1i Bw— İyad el-Baghdadi | إياد البغدادي (@iyad_elbaghdadi) October 30, 2018 Past encomia of the prince by the likes of Tom Friedman of the New York Times, David Ignatius of the Washington Post, the BBC's Frank Gardner, The Guardian, The Times, have had to be speedily retro-fitted, Friedman "revealing" that one of the sources for his columns was in fact Khashoggi.