By Toby Prince
There’s anxiety in Saudi Arabia after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was reportedly stripped of some of his powers by King Salman.
The heir apparent to the Saudi throne is under fire for ordering ordered the hit on journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was butchered by a Saudi hit squad in Istanbul last year.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman has not attended a series of high-profile ministerial and diplomatic meetings over the last fortnight.
The move to restrict the prince is understood to have been revealed to a group of senior ministers earlier last week by his father, King Salman.
The king is said to have asked Bin Salman to be at this cabinet meeting, but he failed to attend.
Experts on the Middle East are divided over whether the murder, and concern over the kingdom’s role in the conflict in Yemen, have led to tension at the heart of the notoriously secretive royal court.
But while most observers expect Prince Mohammed to accede to the throne, there are some signs that the king is seeking to rein in his controversial son at a time when Saudi Arabia is under the spotlight.
The Guardian claim Prince Mohammed did not attend two of the most recent weekly meetings of cabinet ministers, which are headed by the king.
The crown prince has also not attended other high-profile talks with visiting dignitaries, including one last week with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.
Prince Mohammed also wasn’t present at a meeting with senior economic and finance officials earlier this week, a meeting between the king and the grand mufti, a meeting with the head of the World Health Organisation, and meetings with the prime minister of Lebanon, and ambassadors from India and China.
A spokesman for the Saudi government in Washington declined to comment on the absences or provide information on the crown prince’s whereabouts.
The spokesman also did not comment on the alleged decision to remove from Prince Mohammed some of his financial responsibilities, or the decision to informally appoint al-Aiban to oversee financial matters.