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Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Becomes U.A.E.’s President


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Rulers within the United Arab Emirates on Saturday unanimously appointed Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan because the autocratic nation’s president, signaling each unity and stability on this key energy-rich nation that hosts Western militaries.

The ascension of Sheikh Mohammed, 61, had been anticipated after the demise Friday of his half-brother and the UAE’s president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on the age of 73. The transition of energy marks solely the third time this U.S.-allied nation of seven sheikhdoms has chosen a president since changing into an unbiased nation in 1971.

Under Sheikh Mohammed, who has been the nation’s de facto chief since Sheikh Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014, the UAE had tried to challenge energy militarily throughout the broader area because it joined a Saudi-led struggle in Yemen.

But because the lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic, Sheikh Mohammed and the broader UAE has tried to recalibrate its method by largely pulling out of the struggle and looking for diplomatic detentes with rivals. The UAE additionally diplomatically acknowledged Israel, which shares Sheikh Mohammed’s longstanding suspicion of Iran. However, ties to the U.S. have strained in recent times — one thing Washington hopes to handle with Vice President Kamala Harris main a delegation Monday to Abu Dhabi.

The state-run WAM information company described the vote at Al-Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi as unanimous among the many leaders of the nation’s hereditarily dominated sheikhdoms, which incorporates the skyscraper-studded metropolis of Dubai.

“His assumption of the responsibility of the presidency represents a new historical era and a new birth,” stated Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. “We look forward to the acceleration of development aimed at consolidating the global sovereignty and pioneering of the Emirates.”

There had been just one demise of a president earlier than Friday within the nation’s historical past, which noticed Sheikh Khalifa take over for each his and Sheikh Mohammed’s father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, after his demise in 2004. Sheikh Zayed, whose identify graces a significant freeway linking the Emirates and whose face seems all over the place within the nation, broadly stays seen because the nation’s founding father.

The UAE as an entire is observing a three-day mourning interval, which can see companies shut throughout the nation and performances halted in Sheikh Khalifa’s honor. Electronic billboards all confirmed the late sheikh’s picture in Dubai on Friday evening as flags flew at half-staff. A wider mourning interval of 40 days will go on past that.

Oman’s sultan was among the many first leaders to go to Sheikh Mohammed on Saturday evening. Others are anticipated within the coming days, together with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday. Harris additionally will meet with Sheikh Mohammed.

Sheikh Mohammed had been serving because the UAE’s de facto president since a 2014 stroke noticed Sheikh Khalifa disappear from public view.

Known by the acronym MbZ, Sheikh Mohammed cultivated ties with the West that proved invaluable for Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE that instructions tens of billions of {dollars} in wealth funds from its oil and gasoline deposits. A U.S. diplomatic cable from 2004 launched by WikiLeaks referred to him as “charismatic, savvy and very comfortable in the West.” He hosted then-President George W. Bush in 2008 at his desert property, a go to full with Bedouin tents and falcons.

The nation hosts some 3,500 U.S. troops, many at Abu Dhabi’s Al-Dhafra Air Base, from the place drones and fighter jets flew missions combating the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Dubai is also the U.S. Navy’s busiest port of name overseas. Both France and South Korea additionally maintained a army presence right here.

Sheikh Mohammed skilled on the British army academy at Sandhurst and is a helicopter pilot. His military-first method noticed the UAE be part of Saudi Arabia of their bloody, yearslong struggle in Yemen that also rages to at the present time. Sheikh Mohammed has had a detailed relationship with neighboring Saudi Arabia’s personal upstart crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. However, the Emirates has largely withdrawn its troops from Yemen.

Sheikh Mohammed additionally lengthy has been suspicious of each the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, seemingly organizing a marketing campaign concentrating on Islamists within the UAE after the 2011 Arab Spring and urging the West to take a more durable line towards Tehran over considerations about its nuclear program and its help of paramilitary teams all through the area. The UAE’s recognition of Israel in 2020, whereas opening new commerce and tourism, additionally serves as a hedge in coping with Iran.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, nevertheless, the UAE below Sheikh Mohammed has sought to rehabilitate ties to Iran and Turkey, which has backed Islamists within the area. A quartet of Arab nations together with the UAE additionally dropped their boycott of Qatar over a diplomatic dispute relating to its help of Islamists, although relations stay icy between Abu Dhabi and Doha.

“The smooth transition of power in the UAE reflects the sobriety of institutional work and the advanced level of governance mechanisms and their stability,” stated Anwar Gargash, a senior Emirati diplomat.

But strains have emerged in recent times between Sheikh Mohammed and the U.S., lengthy a guarantor of safety within the wider Persian Gulf. Then-President Barack Obama and world powers reaching a nuclear cope with Iran in 2015 soured the Emirates. The chaotic American withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 below President Joe Biden worsened considerations in regards to the U.S.’s pullback from the area.

Sheikh Mohammed discovered himself entangled in particular counsel Robert Mueller’s report on then-President Donald Trump and Russian interference in America’s 2016 election. The chair of Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee was arrested in 2021 on expenses alleging he secretly conspired to affect U.S. coverage to learn the United Arab Emirates.

A deliberate U.S. sale of superior F-35 fighter jets to the UAE additionally seems stalled partly over American considerations in regards to the Emirates’ relationship with China. Meanwhile, the UAE has been cautious to not alienate Russia as Moscow wages struggle on Ukraine.

But Biden supplied a heat assertion Saturday saying he needed to “congratulate my longtime friend” on “his election.”

“The UAE is an essential partner of the United States,” Biden stated. “I look forward to working with Sheikh Mohammed to build from this extraordinary foundation to further strengthen the bonds between our countries and peoples.”

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