DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) de facto leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan was elected president of the Arab state by a federal supreme council on Saturday, solidifying his rule over the OPEC oil producer and key regional player.

He becomes president at a time when the UAE’s longstanding ties with the United States have been strained over perceived US disengagement from its Gulf allies’ security concerns and as Western countries seek support from the region on the Ukraine conflict.

The council, which groups the rulers of the seven emirates of the UAE federation, elected Sheikh Mohammed, known as MbZ, a day after the death of his half-brother, President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed.

“We congratulate him and pledge allegiance to him as do our people...and the entire country will follow his leadership to glory,” Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also UAE vice-president and premier, tweeted.

MbZ, 61, had already been wielding power for years during which he led a realignment of the Middle East that created a new anti-Iran axis with Israel. The UAE, a trade and tourism hub, has also deepened ties with Russia and China at a time when Washington’s political capital with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh has been eroded by differences over the Yemen war, Iran and US conditions on lucrative arms sales.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2022

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