U.S. Implications of the Presidency of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Who is Sheikh Mohamed?
- On Saturday, May 14, the UAE’s Federal Supreme Council elected Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) as president. He is the half brother of former President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan who died at the age of 73 on May 13.
- Anwar Gargash, a senior Emirati diplomat noted that the smooth transition of power aims to convey stability in the country.
- Sheikh Mohamed is only the third president of the UAE since the country’s independence in 1971.
- Prior to his presidency, MBZ was Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
- However, he has operated as the de facto ruler of the UAE since 2014 when his brother suffered a stroke and stepped back from public life.
- During this period of de-facto leadership, the UAE had notable successes, such as launching a man into space, opening its first nuclear reactor, and strengthening the military by acquiring state of the art weaponry.
International Recognition of the President:
- Following Sheikh Khalifa’s death, dignitaries from around the world traveled to the Emirates to pay their respect and meet with the new president.
- On May 16, the U.S. delegation composed of high-profile figures, such as Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, met with Sheikh Mohamed.
- VP Harris reaffirmed the administration’s “commitment to deepening ties to advance the interests of the American and Emirati people in the months and years ahead.”
- Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also offered his congratulations to MBZ and hoped the two countries would further improve relations.
Recent US-UAE Relations:
- The UAE and the U.S. enjoyed warm ties during President Trump’s administration.
- In 2018, UAE officials supported President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement.
- In August 2020, the UAE became the third Arab state to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel through the Abraham Accords.
- In the beginning of 2022, the UAE was dissatisfied with the U.S.’ lack of response to the Houthi attacks on the Emirates, despite President Biden’s removal of the Houthis’ terrorist designation.
- In April 2022, Secretary of State Antony Blinken apologized to MBZ for the delayed U.S. response to the Houthi attacks.
- In March 2022, UAE ambassador to the U.S. Yousef al-Otaiba commented that the relationship between the two countries was going through a “stress test” but was confident of improved relations.
- Otaiba believed that future bilateral relations would be driven by the private economics sector regarding the creation of jobs.
- Currently, there is a delay in the finalization of a $23 billion deal which would see the Emirates receiving 50 F-35 advanced fighter jets. The Emirates believed the security requirements proposed by the U.S. to safeguard the weapons from Chinese espionage were too severe.