WHEN news of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance began making global headlines, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince had one distinct feeling. It wasn’t fear. It wasn’t remorse.
It was confusion.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is suspected of orchestrating the murder of the 59-year-old Saudi journalist, was reportedly baffled by why his abrupt disappearance sparked such a backlash around the world.
When Turkish investigators began to reveal their findings and anger took hold of the community, the Saudi leader was so shocked that he called White House adviser Jared Kushner to have it explained to him, the Wall Street Journal reported.
According to the newspaper, bin Salman was perplexed and angry that the incident had escalated into a diplomatic crisis.
He called Mr Kushner — Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser on the Middle East — on October 10, eight days after Khashoggi went missing.
Why the outrage, the Prince asked in English. He couldn’t understand why government officials and business leaders were now boycotting rather than praising him.
The Saudi Government has detained 18 people in connection with Khashoggi’s murder. Two senior officials, both close aides of the Prince, have lost their jobs.
International pressure continues to mount against bin Salman and the Saudis, with France, Germany, the UK and the US pushing for the truth to be revealed.
Numerous companies and prominent individuals around the world are now backing away from doing business with the kingdom.
Representatives from more than a dozen Western news outlets, including The New York Times, The Financial Times, Bloomberg and The Economist, have removed their media sponsorship and withdrawn from an upcoming international conference to be hosted by the Crown Prince, according to Axios.
At the same time, top tech executives are pulling away from the Neom project advisory board, an ambitious $700 billion project spruiked by the kingdom as a sustainable futuristic megacity.
Apple’s chief design officer Jony Ive, former US secretary of energy Ernest Moniz, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff and former vice president of the European Commission for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes have all suspended their involvement in the project.
And Hollywood agency Endeavour Content is pulling out of a $560 million investment deal in the country, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Two inside sources said Mr Kushner urged bin Salman to get to the bottom of the journalist’s disappearance as soon as possible.
“He was really shocked that there was such a big reaction to it,” said a person close to the royal court. “He feels betrayed by the West. He said he would look elsewhere and he will never forget how people turned against him before evidence was produced.”
Mr Kushner is close to the Crown Prince. According to CNN, they sometimes directly text on WhatsApp.
The White House adviser has been relatively quiet on the Khashoggi crisis, but a recent New York Times report claimed he was urging Mr Trump to stand by Saudi Arabia, believing the Prince’s legacy could survive the storm of criticism.
In a subsequent interview with CNN’s Van Jones, Mr Kushner revealed he urged the Crown Prince to be “fully transparent” about the death.
Asked what he told the Saudi leader during the phone chat, he said: “Just to be transparent, to be fully transparent. The world is watching. This is a very, very serious accusation and a very serious situation.”
When asked if he thinks the Prince will listen to his advice, he said: “We’ll see.”
He also noted the US had its “eyes wide open” and said the country was not “reliant” on Saudi Arabia for its Middle East strategy.
“Right now as an administration, we’re more in the fact-finding phase,” he said. “Then we’ll determine which facts are credible.”
President Donald Trump has flipped between defending and hitting out at Saudi Arabia.
He initially warned the kingdom would face “severe punishment” if it was found to be involved in Khashoggi’s murder, but later called for a presumption of innocence, comparing it to the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Yesterday, Mr Trump said US investigators were in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and that he’d know more about the circumstances surrounding Khashoggi’s death in due time.
“I’m not satisfied with what I’ve heard,” he said of the Saudi Government.
Mr Kushner defended the Mr Trump’s stance. “The President is focused on what is good for America; what are our strategic interests,” he said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he will reveal the details about what happened to slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi this week.
“We are looking for justice here and this will be revealed in all its naked truth, not through some ordinary steps but in all its naked truth,” President Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul.
Mr Erdogan said he will “go into detail” about the case, which has been veiled in mystery and scepticism as the world’s powers demand a credible version of events.
Mr Erdogan is expected to deliver his findings to parliament at around 0800 GMT (6pm AEDT) today.