Speculation is not limited to a possible succession. Media reports suggested that US President Joe Biden may visit Saudi Arabia next month for a first meeting with the crown prince.
Biden called Saudi Arabia a pariah state during his presidential election campaign.
Bin Salman waited for his 86-year-old father to return from the hospital before travelling to Abu Dhabi to offer his condolences for the death of United Arab Emirates President Khaled bin Zayed and congratulations to his successor, Mohamed bin Zayed, the crown prince’s one-time mentor.
Bin Salman used the composition of his delegation to underline his grip on Saudi Arabia’s ruling family. In doing so, he was messaging the international community at large, and particularly US President Joe Biden, that he is in control of the kingdom no matter what happens.
The delegation was made up of representatives of different branches of the ruling Al Saud family, including Prince Abdulaziz bin Ahmed, the eldest son of Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the detained brother of King Salman.
Even though he holds no official post, Abdulaziz’s name topped the Saudi state media’s list of delegates accompanying Bin Salman.
His father, Ahmed, was one of three members of the Allegiance Council not to support Bin Salman’s appointment as crown prince in 2017.
Bin Salman has detained Ahmed as well as Prince Mohamed Bin Nayef, the two men he considers his foremost rivals, partly because they are popular among US officials.