DUBAI, United Arab Emirates ( Associated Press) – Rulers in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday unanimously appointed Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi as the president of the autocratic nation, a major energy-rich country that hosts Western armies. Indicates both unity and stability.
Sheikh Mohamed, 61, was expected to ascend to heaven after his half-brother and UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan died on Friday at the age of 73. The transition of power is only the third time in this America—the ally of the seven sheikhs—has elected a president since becoming an independent nation in 1971.
Under Sheikh Mohammed, who has been the country’s de facto leader since Sheikh Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014, the UAE tried to show its might militarily in the wider region by engaging in a Saudi-led war in Yemen. Was.
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But since the lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic, Sheikh Mohamed and the wider United Arab Emirates have largely attempted to rearrange their approach by exiting the war and seeking diplomatic detainees with rivals. The UAE also recognized Israel diplomatically, which shares Sheikh Mohammed’s longstanding skepticism about Iran. However, relations with the US have been strained in recent years.
State-run WAM news agency described the vote at the Al-Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi as a consensus among the rulers of the country’s hereditary-ruled sheikhs, including the skyscraper city of Dubai.
“We congratulate him, and we pledge allegiance to him, and our people pledge allegiance to him,” Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said on Twitter after the vote. “Let the whole nation be led by him on the path of glory and honor, the will of God.”
The president had had only one death before Friday in the country’s history, having taken over for both Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Mohammed’s father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, after his death in 2004. Sheikh Zayed, whose name graces the major highway connecting the emirate and whose face is visible everywhere in the country, is widely seen as the country’s founding father.
The United Arab Emirates is observing a three-day mourning period, which will lead to a nationwide shutdown of businesses and a halt to demonstrations in honor of Sheikh Khalifa. Electronic billboards showed a picture of the late Sheikh in Dubai on Friday night, while flags were waved at half-staff. Beyond this, there will be an extensive mourning period of 40 days.
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Sheikh Mohammed had been serving as the de facto President of the United Arab Emirates since a stroke in 2014, when Sheikh Khalifa disappeared from public view.
Known by the acronym MBZ, Sheikh Mohammed forged links with the West that proved valuable to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which commands billions of dollars in funding funding from its oil and gas deposits. A US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks from 2004 referred to him as “charismatic, knowledgeable and very comfortable in the West”. He hosted then-President George W Bush at his desert property in 2008, a visit complete with Bedouin tents and hawks.
The country hosts about 3,500 US troops at Abu Dhabi’s Al-Dhafra Air Base, from where drones and fighter jets fly Islamic State group combat missions in Iraq and Syria. Dubai is also the busiest port of the US Navy abroad. Both France and South Korea also maintained military presence here.
Sheikh Mohammed trained at the British Military Academy in Sandhurst and is a helicopter pilot. His military-first approach saw the UAE join Saudi Arabia in its bloody, years-long war in Yemen that continues to this day. Sheikh Mohammed has had close ties with his upstart Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of neighboring Saudi Arabia. However, the emirate has largely withdrawn its troops from Yemen.
Sheikh Mohamed has also long been suspicious of both the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, possibly organizing a campaign targeting Islamists in the United Arab Emirates after the Arab Spring of 2011 and seeking its nuclear program and its support from the West. urging Tehran to take a tougher stance on concerns about Paramilitary forces across the region. The UAE’s recognition of Israel in 2020 also serves as a defense in dealing with Iran, ushering in new trade and tourism.
However, since the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE, led by Sheikh Mohammed, has sought to rehabilitate ties with Iran and Turkey, which have backed Islamists in the region. A quartet of Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates, also abandoned Qatar’s boycott over a diplomatic dispute regarding its support for Islamists, although relations between Abu Dhabi and Doha remain icy.
“The smooth transition of power in the UAE reflects the restraint of institutional work and the advanced level of governance mechanisms and their stability,” said Anwar Gargash, a senior emirate’s diplomat.
But tensions have risen in recent years between Sheikh Mohammed and the US, which has long been a guarantor of security in the wider Persian Gulf. Then-President Barack Obama and the world powers that reached a nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 soured the emirate. The chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan under President Joe Biden in 2021 further heightened concerns about US withdrawal from the region.
Sheikh Mohammed found himself embroiled in a report by then-President Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 US election. The chairman of Trump’s 2017 inauguration committee was arrested in 2021 on charges of secretly plotting to influence US policy to benefit the United Arab Emirates.
A planned US sale of advanced F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates also appears to have stalled due to US concerns about the emirate’s relationship with China. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates has been careful not to isolate Russia as Moscow has waged war on Ukraine.