New UAE President, a ‘strongman’ who wants stability

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates and widely seen as an anti-Iran axis with Israel, is the new UAE president.

In a consolidation of his leadership, Sheikh Mohammed, known as “MbZ”, was unanimously appointed by the Federal Council of the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, a day after the death of his half-brother President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, 73. Sheikh Mohammed succeeded Sheikh Khalifa as Ruler of Abu Dhabi after his death on 13.

“We congratulate him and pledge allegiance to him, as do our people,” said Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE.

At 61, MbZ became a strong figure in one increasingly assertive UAE foreign policy after the regional defeat of the “Arab Spring” in 2011, including armed interventions in Libya and Iraq, and in supporting military rule in Egypt, which the UAE justified by containing the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 2020, the UAE and Bahrain “normalized” ties with Israel in a deal brokered by Donald Trump’s US administration, breaking a longstanding policy by the Arab League that it was not to do so until Israel occupied a viable Palestinian state area recognized .

The ruler of Dubai (R) offers his condolences to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. May 14, 2022

Contain Iran but improve relations

While “normalization” was condemned by all Palestinian groups, it was widely interpreted as a means of containing Iran. The UAE pressed on, although Saudi Arabia refused to follow suit, and there were also differences between the two over the Yemen war – which began in 2015 – as the UAE withdrew most of its military presence in 2019.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been reluctant to take sides in the Ukraine conflict, adding to tensions with President Joe Biden’s US administration and turning down invitations to pump more oil to dampen rising prices. A proposed US sale of advanced F-35 fighter jets to the UAE also appears to have stalled in part due to American concerns about the UAE’s relationship with China.

Sheikh Mohammed will be only the third president since the United Arab Emirates gained independence in 1971 as a federation of seven sheikhdoms. His main task will be to solidify the UAE’s position as a financial and tourism hub while further diversifying from an oil-based economy.

youngest Efforts to ease tensions with Iran, with speculation of a visit from President Ebrahim Raisi, reflect a desire for regional stability. In December, UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin said despite Iran’s harsh condemnation of Iran’s “normalization” of the UAE Zayed al-Nahyan met with Raisi in Tehran.

“We look forward to accelerating development aimed at consolidating the Emirates’ global sovereignty and pioneering work,” said Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed.

Foreign leaders – including US Vice President Kamala Harris, French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli President Isaac Herzog – arrive on Sunday and Monday to offer their condolences on the death of Sheikh Khalifa, as the UAE begins a 40-day mourning kick off.

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