Mohammed bin Salman named prime minister

Mohammed bin Salman has been named prime minister of Saudi Arabia in a move that experts said would probably shield the crown prince from a potentially damaging lawsuit in the US in connection to his alleged role in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday that King Salman was making an exception to Saudi law and naming his son as prime minister, formally ceding the dual title of king and prime minister he had personally held until now.

The development is not likely to change the balance of power in Saudi Arabia, where the 37-year-old prince is already seen as the de facto ruler of the kingdom and heir to the throne. The role of prime minister is in line with the king’s previous delegation of duties to him which includes representing the kingdom on foreign visits and chairing summits hosted by the kingdom.

The reshuffle kept another son, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, as energy minister, the aged king said in the royal decree. Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan and Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih remain in their positions.

The timing of this decision is notable given that the Biden administration had been asked by a US judge to weigh in on whether Prince Mohammed ought to be protected by sovereign immunity in a case brought by the fiancee of Khashoggi, Hatice Cengiz.