A group of U.S. senators is putting pressure on U.S. President Donald Trump to investigate the disappearance of a Saudi journalist that could result in sanctions against Saudi officials and entities. Saudi Arabia, however, has been a major U.S. ally in the Middle East since WWII, including serving as the launching pad for the 1991 Gulf War and, most recently, as the linchpin of regime change efforts directed against Iran and Syria.
If evidence implicates the Saudi Government in Khashoggi's disappearance or death, it would indicate a new level of violence that authorities are willing to undertake to silence criticism of the crown prince, whose jailing of opponents at home has undercut his efforts to fashion himself as a moderniser of his conservative kingdom.
In his last interview three days before his disappearance, he said he did not think he would return to Saudi Arabia. "Everything points to them".
Trump said he plans to invite to the White House the fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi, a writer for The Washington Post who has not been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate on October 2 to get paperwork for his marriage.
While the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has so far been reluctant to confirm the killing of Khashoggi, grisly details of the murder and the operation to assassinate the Saudi journalist are being released by senior Turkish security officials.
A source told the Washington Post that U.S. intelligence "intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him".
Turkish officials told Middle East Eye that they know what happened to Khashoggi after he entered the consulate building, claiming that they are sure that he was assassinated inside. "It's a very serious situation for us".
On Wednesday, a week after Khashoggi's October 2 disappearance, the White House said that senior officials had spoken to the crown prince, referred to in shorthand as MbS, and Trump described the case as a "very serious situation".
Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke to Salman in a "follow up call" that sought to "reiterate the United States request for information". Connecticut's Democrat Senator Chris Murphy said it would be time for the United States to rethink its relationship with Saudi Arabia if it turned out Khashoggi was lured to his death by the Saudis.
The 36-year-old student was waiting outside the consulate in Istanbul when Mr Khashoggi entered it a week ago, hoping to fix paperwork for their imminent marriage.
On his first worldwide trip as president, Mr Trump visited Saudi Arabia and announced $US110 billion in proposed arms sales.
Khashoggi has been a critic of Saudi policy, especially its intervention in Yemen's brutal civil war, under the crown prince. Saudi officials maintain he left the consulate shortly after entering, although it has failed to provide evidence to support that. A man with a light blazer outside the consulate bows slightly as the writer enters the building. Trump on Thursday described the relationship as "excellent". Robin Wright, a scholar at the Wilson Center think tank and close friend of the missing writer, said that's unlikely to change.
Mr Trump's remarks, on the other hand, came as prominent American lawmakers increasingly criticise Saudi Arabia - America's longtime security ally in the region. The flip side, however, is that he's also squelched dissent and imprisoned activists. U.S. ties have always been anchored by energy interests, counter-terror cooperation and more recently by U.S. -Saudi military cooperation in the Yemen civil war. Trump visited Saudi Arabia on his first worldwide trip as president and announced $110 billion in proposed arms sales.