Who’s MBZ, the UAE’s new president? | Politics Information

United Arab Emirates strongman Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ), who was formally elected president on Saturday, has led a realignment of the Center East that created a brand new anti-Iran axis with Israel and fought a rising tide of political Islam within the area.

Working behind the scenes for years as de facto chief, Sheikh Mohammed, 61, reworked the UAE army right into a high-tech pressure, which coupled with its oil wealth and enterprise hub standing, prolonged Emirati affect internationally.

Mohammed started wielding energy in a interval when his half-brother President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, who died on Friday, suffered bouts of sickness, together with a stroke in 2014.

MBZ, as he’s recognized, was pushed by a “sure fatalistic line of pondering” that Gulf Arab rulers might not depend on their important supporter the US, based on former US envoy to the UAE Barbara Leaf, particularly after Washington deserted Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak through the 2011 Arab Spring.

From his energy base within the capital Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed issued a “calm and chilly” warning to then President Barack Obama to not again uprisings that might unfold and endanger Gulf dynastic rule, based on Obama’s memoir, which described MBZ because the “savviest” Gulf chief.

A US State Division official serving within the Biden administration, which has had fraught ties with the UAE in latest months, described him as a strategist who brings historic perspective to discussions.

“He’ll speak not solely in regards to the current, however return years, many years, in some instances, chatting with developments over time,” the official mentioned.

MBZ backed the 2013 army overthrow of Egypt’s elected Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, and championed Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he rose to energy in a 2017 palace coup, touting him as a person Washington might cope with and the one one in a position to open up the dominion.

Inspired by heat ties with the then US President Donald Trump, the 2 Gulf hawks lobbied for Washington’s most strain marketing campaign on Iran, boycotted neighbouring Qatar for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, and launched a pricey conflict to attempt to break the grip of Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis.

The UAE additionally waded into conflicts from Somalia to Libya and Sudan earlier than upending many years of Arab consensus by forging ties with Israel in 2020, together with Bahrain, in US-brokered offers often called the Abraham Accords that drew Palestinian ire.

The accords have been pushed by shared issues over Iran but additionally perceived advantages to the UAE economic system and fatigue with a Palestinian management “that doesn’t hear”, mentioned one diplomat.

Tactical thinker

Whereas diplomats and analysts see the alliance with Riyadh and Washington as a pillar of UAE technique, MBZ has not hesitated to maneuver independently when pursuits or financial causes dictate.

The Ukraine disaster uncovered strains with Washington when the UAE abstained from a UN Safety Council vote condemning Russia’s invasion. As an OPEC producer, together with oil titan Riyadh, the UAE additionally rebuffed Western calls to pump extra.

Abu Dhabi has ignored different US issues by arming and backing Libya’s Khalifa Haftar towards the internationally recognised authorities and fascinating with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

With Riyadh, the largest divergence got here when the UAE largely withdrew from Yemen because the unpopular conflict, through which greater than 100 Emiratis died, received mired in army impasse.

When Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir reneged on a promise to desert Islamist allies, Abu Dhabi orchestrated the 2019 coup towards him.

Though he says he was interested in their ideology in his youth, MBZ has framed the Muslim Brotherhood as one of many gravest threats to stability within the Center East.

Like Saudi Arabia, the UAE accuses the Brotherhood of betrayal after it sheltered members persecuted in Egypt within the Sixties, solely to see them work for change of their host nations.

“I’m an Arab, I’m a Muslim, and I pray. And within the Seventies and early Nineteen Eighties I used to be certainly one of them. I consider these guys have an agenda,” MBZ mentioned in a 2007 assembly with US officers, based on Wikileaks.

Educated within the UK

Educated within the UAE and the army officers’ school at Sandhurst within the UK, Sheikh Mohammed’s distrust of the group heightened after 2001, when two of his countrymen have been among the many 19 hijackers within the September 11 assaults on the US.

“He appeared round and noticed that lots of the youthful era within the area have been very interested in Osama bin Laden’s anti-Western mantra,” one other diplomat mentioned. “As he as soon as mentioned to me: ‘If they will do it to you, they will do it to us.’”

Regardless of years of enmity, MBZ selected to interact with Iran and Turkey as COVID-19 and rising financial competitors with Saudi Arabia turned focus to improvement, pushing the UAE in direction of additional liberalisation whereas conserving a lid on political dissent.

Seen as a moderniser at residence and a charismatic folks’s man by many diplomats, MBZ doggedly promoted the beforehand low-profile Abu Dhabi, which holds the UAE’s oil wealth, by spurring improvement in power, infrastructure and expertise.

As deputy supreme commander of armed forces he was credited with turning the UAE army into one of the vital efficient within the Arab world, based on consultants who say he instituted army service to instil nationalism fairly than entitlement amongst an prosperous inhabitants.

“He doesn’t beat across the bush … he desires to know what isn’t working nicely, not simply what’s working,” mentioned a supply with entry to Sheikh Mohammed.

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