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UAE's newly elected ruler sees Iran, Islamists as threat to Gulf safe haven

Published : Sunday, 15 May, 2022 at 12:00 AM  Count : 322

DUBAI, May 14: United Arab Emirates strongman Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who was formally elected president on Saturday, led a realignment of the Middle East that created a new anti-Iran axis with Israel and fought a rising tide of political Islam in the region.
Working behind the scenes for years as de facto leader, Sheikh Mohammed, 61, transformed the UAE military into a high-tech force, which coupled with its oil wealth and business hub status, extended Emirati influence internationally.
Mohammed began wielding power in a period when his half-brother President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, who died on Friday, suffered bouts of illness, including a stroke in 2014.
MbZ, as he is known, was driven by a "certain fatalistic line of thinking" that Gulf Arab rulers could no longer rely on their main supporter the United States, according to former U.S. envoy to the UAE Barbara Leaf, especially after Washington abandoned Egypt's Hosni Mubarak during the 2011 Arab Spring.
From his power base in the capital Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed issued a "calm and cold" warning to then-President Barack Obama not to back uprisings that could spread and endanger Gulf dynastic rule, according to Obama's memoir, which described MbZ as the "savviest" Gulf leader.
A U.S. State Department official serving in the Biden administration, which has had fraught ties with the UAE in recent months, described him as a strategist who brings historical perspective to discussions.
"He will talk not only about the present, but go back years, decades, in some cases, speaking to trends over time," the official said.
MbZ backed the 2013 military ousting of Egypt's elected Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Mursi, and championed Saudi Arabia's Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he rose to power in a 2017 palace coup, touting him as a man Washington could deal with and the only one able to open up the kingdom.
    -REUTERS









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