BEIRUT, Lebanon — Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan became president of the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, formalizing the rise of a 61-year-old prince who has skillfully used his country’s oil wealth to become one of the most influential leaders in the world. the Arab world and a close partner of the United States.
Standing at the helm of the Emirati, Sheikh Mohammed succeeds his elder half brother, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayedwho died Friday at the age of 73 after leading the Persian Gulf country for 18 years.
Sheikh Mohammed, who was previously the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, one of the seven city-states that make up the United Arab Emirates, has been unanimously elected president by a council of the rulers of the seven emirates, the Emirates state news report said. 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 understated demeanor that masks ambitions that extend far beyond national borders, Sheikh Mohammed has in fact ruled the Emirates since 2014, when Sheikh Khalifa suffered a stroke and retired from public life. to live.
Sheikh Mohammed, often referred to by his initials MBZ, has built close ties in Washington by offering the services of the Emirates and its armed forces to assist in Western military efforts in the region. His country has also spent heavily on US-made weapons and lobbyists to ensure his views are promoted in the United States.
Emirates special forces have been deployed with Americans to Afghanistan, Kosovo, Somalia and Libya, and the United Arab Emirates was a member of the international coalition the United States formed to fight 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 the war in Ukraine.
In the Middle East, Sheikh Mohammed considers the greatest threat to stability Iran and its network of armed proxies and political Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood, a Muslim social and political organization linked to political parties in a number of Arab countries.
He’s close Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabiathe de facto ruler of the kingdom, and was instrumental in marketing 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 soon after led a military intervention in Yemen that failed to achieve any of its main goals, plunged into a grim stalemate and fueled one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
In the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings that spread across the region in 2011, Sheikh Mohammed worked behind the scenes to support strongmen and undermine political Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia.
More recently, his administration has resisted Western pleas to help isolate President Vladimir V. Putin over his invasion of Ukraine, giving the Emirates a refuge for 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 home to Dubai, a flashy, futuristic metropolis. Of the estimated 10 million people in the Emirates, about 1.2 million are nationals. The rest are foreign workers.
Domestically, it is an autocracy without political parties and where political activists and critics of government policy are tightly controlled, targeted with advanced hacking software and are sometimes imprisoned. But its strong economy makes it one of the most popular destinations for trained professionals from across the region.
Unlike Saudi Arabia, its closest ally, the Emirates allows freedom of religion and houses mosques, churches, temples and other places of worship. It also has a Ministry of Toleranceintended to promote the acceptance of others, and a woman who acts as the secretary of state for happiness and well-being†
Sheikh Mohammed’s relationship with the White House has been shaky in recent years. He personally expressed frustration with President Barack Obama for his push for an international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program. which was signed in 2015† Along with Israeli and Saudi leaders, Sheikh Mohammed believed that focusing solely on Iran’s nuclear program left it free to pursue other activities that destabilized the region, such as arming proxy militias.
After the election of Donald J. Trump, Sheikh Mohammed actively courted the new president and his entourage, and even a meeting with mr. Obama canceled to meet Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.
His ties were much warmer with Mr Trump, who… the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and, at least initially, cheered on a blockade the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other countries imposed on Qatar, another close US partner in the Gulf, in 2017. (The Trump administration later worked to heal the rift, which is more or less resolved in 2021.)
In August 2020, the Emirates handed Mr Trump another victory by: establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel, making it the third Arab country to establish formal relations with the Jewish state and the first new country in 28 years to do so. The Kingdom of Bahrain, a gulf island, followed the same day, and Morocco and Sudan later.
Sheikh Mohammed’s relationship with President Biden has been less smooth. The Emirates were alarmed by the sudden withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan and the speed of the Taliban’s takeover of the country†
And Emirati officials have told US interlocutors that they believe the United States has done too little to protect the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia from attacks by armed Iranian proxiesraising questions about the long-standing US commitment to ensuring the security of the Gulf countries and their oil production.
Sheikh Mohammed is the third president of the Emirates since the country gained independence from Britain in 1971 and named his father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first head of state.
Sheikh Mohammed is a trained fighter pilot who, like other golf royals, was trained at the British Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst.