According to the Washington Post, the Saudis are engaged in a family feud over power, which likely led to the ordered killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The origins of this feud are located in January 2015, at the bedside of a dying King Abdullah. As David Ignatius relates, a Saudi who was at the hospital claims that Abdullah’s sons and courtiers delayed telling his successor, King Salman, that the monarch had passed, likely an attempt at a power play. King Mohammad bin Salman, his father’s favorite son, became a major player over the course of the next few years, at one point attempting a kidnapping in Beijing in August of 2016 of a member of an opposing family faction.

In the Spring of 2017, bin Salman began increasing his aggression towards those he saw as enemies. Torture was encouraged as well as intimidation and coercion. According to Post reporter David Ignatius’s contacts, who had their stories verified by intelligence officers in the US and Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi was murdered by a team sent from the royal court in Riyadh, part of bin Salman’s rapid action team that had been organized 18 months prior.

Saud al-Qahtani, a former Saudi Air Force member and lawyer, overcame bin Salman’s initial suspicions to rise in ranking and reputation as now one of bin Salman’s right-hand men, and one figure whom US and Saudi intelligence have concluded helped to organize the hit on Khashoggi. Khashoggi’s journalism and his ties to Turkey and Qatar deeply offended the Saudi Arabian autocrat who allegedly issued a “bring him back” order before he was killed.

The failed kidnapping attempt in Beijing and Khashoggi’s murder both resulted in blame never squaring on bin Salman, and seemingly nothing short of an actual smoking gun may be enough to implicate bin Salman in any of the heavy-handed affairs he involves himself in, especially with the Trump administration squarely in his pocket.