Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan became the President of the UAE after his brother, Sheikh Khalifa, passed away in May 2022. He is the third son of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the widely respected first President of the UAE who ruled from independence in 1971 until his death in 2004.
Military Leadership: Sheikh Mohamed has transformed the military capabilities of the UAE not only through buying military hardware (over 80 F-16 jets), but also by developing the UAE’s own military industry, both hardware and special forces. All of these have also been deployed in various conflicts including Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen. The UAE is an important centre for global weapons’ trading, hosting the world’s largest defence expos.
Global Player: Sheikh Mohamed has enjoyed excellent personal relationships with the previous US presidents managing to have his views heard on Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Palestine and the support of a young Saudi prince. Further, Sheikh Mohamed has shown that he is his own man by following policies that the US does not support publicly: the support of Libyan general Khalifa Haftar and the blockade on Qatar. Involvement in other key issues shows that the UAE is punching above its weight in international affairs. Its involvement in Yemen has become increasingly complex with a split with Saudi policy meaning their respective proxies on the ground are fighting each other as well as local forces and proxies of Iran. The humanitarian disaster in Yemen is of an immense magnitude with many voices squarely laying the brunt of the blame on the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Abraham Accords: The UAE (along with Bahrain) formalized relations with Israel by signing the Abraham Accords Peace Treaty at the White House in September 2020 with the Israeli Prime Minister and the former American President Trump in attendance. An Israeli embassy was opened in July 2021 with the President of Israel in attendance as the UAE pushes ahead with a full normalization strategy which has outraged Palestinians and their supporters.
Economic Development: With Abu Dhabi sitting on a 10th of the world’s proven oil reserves, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan maintains immense political influence in the Muslim World as a leading member of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company—which directs development efforts for the UAE’s role in the oil and gas industries. He also controls one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds ($853bn). He has overseen a construction boom which includes man-made islands, entertainment parks and museum franchises of the Louvre and the Guggenheim.
Sustainable Development and Conservationist: Sheikh Mohamed has been a champion of sustainable development in Abu Dhabi as an advocate for the implementation of green technologies. He pledged $15 billion for the development of clean energy through solar, wind and hydrogen power. He is also a keen falconer and is committed to protecting falcons and other species in the region.
Philanthropy and Tolerance: Sheikh Mohamed has donated billions of dollars to various causes, including AED 55 million to the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, and purchasing vaccines in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development celebrated its 50-year anniversary in 2021; it has given over AED 150 billion in development funding and investments in 97 countries. The UAE is home to a diverse workforce and has been keen to show respect to other religions and cultures. It has allowed various houses of worship to be built, and three synagogues have already been completed. In addition, in 2023, the Abrahamic Family House was inaugurated. Encompassing a mosque, a church, a synagogue and a forum for gathering and dialogue, this space welcomes people from all walks of life to exchange knowledge and practice faith.