Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan was elected president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday following the death of his half-brother President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed who was also the leader of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Although elected as official president by the Federal Supreme Council on Saturday, Mohammed bin Zayed has ruled as the de facto ruler of the UAE since his half-brother’s onset of illness following a stroke in 2004.
Leading a realignment of the Middle East with the formation of an anti-Iran axis with Israel, the modernization of the UAE military in addition to the countering of Islamic extremism, Mohammed bin Zayed helped place the UAE on the map as a stable key regional player.
Mohammed bin Zayed assumes the presidency in a time marked by strained ties between the Gulf Arab nation and the United States. Refusing to take sides in the Russia-Ukraine war, refusing requests to increase oil exports, differences over the war in Yemen and Iran have contributed to an independent foreign policy direction spearheaded by the leader during his long de facto reign, The Jerusalem Post writes.
The former crown price has also deepened the UAE’s ties with Russia and China as the relationship with the US has weakened under the Biden Administration.
“Closely allied with Saudi Arabia, it has emerged as a leader of a reshaped Middle East since the retreat of traditional powers and the reduced involvement of the United States, joining a war against Iran-backed militants in Yemen and urging the West to take a harder line toward Tehran over concerns about its nuclear program,” the Times of Israel writes.
“Mohammed bin Zayed has set not only the future course for the UAE but for much of the Gulf in his approach to state building and power projection,” Kristin Diwan, senior resident scholar at Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington wrote.
“The future direction under him is set and is mirrored in other Gulf leaders adopting state-led and globally-oriented economic diversification and a more assertive foreign policy that looks beyond the Gulf and traditional partners.”
Referencing the historic Abraham Accords brokered under the Trump Administration, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid congratulated the new Emirati leader.
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“This was in reference to the UAE’s growing partnership with Israel, certified in the historic Abraham Accords, which normalized ties between the two countries. Since then, they have ironed out many trade, scientific and regional cooperation agreements,” The Jerusalem Post reports.
The oldest son of Zayed bin Sultan Nahyan, the founding leader of the UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed served as the 16th emir of Abu Dhabi in addition to the president of the UAE. Khalifa bin Zayed was elected as the second president of the UAE in 2004 and has served in that position for 17 years.
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