Mohammed Bin Zayed becomes president of the United Arab Emirates

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan became president of the UAE on Saturday, formalizing the rise of a 61-year-old prince who has cleverly exploited his country’s oil wealth to become one of the most influential leaders in the Arab world. and a close partner of the United States.

At the head of the state of the Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed succeeds his eldest half, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayeddied Friday at the age of 73 after leading the Persian Gulf country for 18 years.

Sheikh Mohammed, who had previously been the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, one of the seven city-states that make up the UAE, was unanimously chosen as president by a council of rulers of the seven emirates, the state news of the Emirates the agency said.

Sheikh Mohammed thanked the other rulers for their trust and prayed that God would help him “serve his country and the loyal people of the Emirates,” the news agency said.

Known throughout the region and in Western capitals for his inquisitive mind and restrained demeanor that masks ambitions that extend far beyond his country’s borders, Sheikh Mohammed has effectively ruled the Emirates since 2014, when Sheikh Khalifa had a stroke and withdrew from public life.

Often referred to by his initials, MBZ, Sheikh Mohammed has forged close ties to Washington by offering the services of the Emirates and its military to assist with Western military efforts in the region. His country has also spent heavily on American-made weapons and lobbyists to ensure his views are promoted in the United States.

The Emirati special forces sided with the Americans in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Somalia and Libya, and the UAE was a member of the international coalition that the United States formed to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

As head of state, Sheikh Mohammed will also oversee the decisions of one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, as well as a major oil and gas producer and member of OPEC at a time of turbulence in global energy markets exacerbated by war. in Ukraine .

In the Middle East, Sheikh Mohammed considers Iran and its network of armed delegates and political Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood, a Muslim social and political organization linked to political parties in numerous Arab countries, the greatest threats to stability.

He is close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabiathe de facto ruler of the kingdom, and played an important role in promoting the young Saudi prince in Washington as the future of Saudi Arabia after his father, King Salman, took the throne in 2015.

Their two countries spearheaded a military intervention in Yemen shortly after it failed to achieve any of its major goals, stabilized in a stalemate, and fueled one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring riots that swept the region in 2011, Sheikh Mohammed worked behind the scenes to support strongmen and undermine political Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia.

More recently, his government has resisted Western pleas to help isolate President Vladimir V. Putin during his invasion of Ukraine, making the Emirates a refuge for the fleeing Russian oligarchs and their money.

The United Arab Emirates is a desert country the size of South Carolina, on the coast of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It is the home of Dubai, a flashy and futuristic metropolis. Of the estimated 10 million people in the Emirates, around 1.2 million are citizens. The rest are foreign workers.

Nationally, it is an autocracy with no political parties and where political activists and critics of government policy are heavily interviewed, they have been targeted with sophisticated hacking software and sometimes they are jailed. But its strong economy has made it one of the most popular destinations for educated professionals across the region.

Unlike Saudi Arabia, its closest ally, the Emirates allow freedom of religion and host mosques, churches, temples and other places of worship. It also has a Ministry of Toleranceintended to promote acceptance of others, and a woman serving as minister of happiness and well-being.

Sheikh Mohammed’s relationship with the White House has changed in recent years. He privately expressed frustration with President Barack Obama over his push to secure an international deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear program. which was signed in 2015. Along with Israeli and Saudi leaders, Sheikh Mohammed felt that focusing only on the Iranian nuclear program left him free to pursue other activities that destabilized the region, such as arming the proxy militias.

After the election of Donald J. Trump, Sheikh Mohammed actively courted the incoming president and his entourage, and even canceled a meeting with Mr. Obama to meet Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

His ties were much warmer with Mr. Trump, than in 2018 it withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal with Iran and, at least initially, he rejoiced over a blockade that the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other countries imposed on Qatar, another close American partner in the Gulf, in 2017. (The Trump administration then worked to heal the rift, which was more or less less resolved in 2021.)

In August 2020, the Emirates handed Mr. Trump another victory establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, thus becoming the third Arab country to open formal relations with the Jewish state and the first new country to open it in 28 years. The same day followed the Kingdom of Bahrain, a Gulf island, and later Morocco and Sudan.

Sheikh Mohammed’s relationship with President Biden has been less regular. The Emirates were alarmed by the sudden withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan and the Speed ​​in the acquisition of the country by the Taliban.

And Emirati officials told American interlocutors that they believe the US has done too little to protect the UAE and Saudi Arabia from attacks by armed Iranian delegatesraising questions about America’s longstanding commitment to ensuring the security of the Gulf countries and their oil production.

Sheikh Mohammed is the UAE’s third president since the country gained independence from Britain in 1971 and named his father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, its first head of state.

Sheikh Mohammed is a trained fighter pilot who, like other Gulf royalty, was educated at the British Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst.

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