100s of titles, one news app for just $10 a month.
Dive Deeper:
UAE strongman Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed named new president
The United Arab Emirates' de facto leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan was elected president of the Gulf Arab state…
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan appointed as UAE president
Rulers in the United Arab Emirates have unanimously appointed Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the autocratic…
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan elected UAE president
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected by the Federal Supreme Council, the state-run WAM news agency says.
UAE's Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan named new president
It was not clear if President Joe Biden would be among world leaders heading to Abu Dhabi to offer condolences…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is named the UAE's new president
The ascension of Sheikh Mohammed, 61, had been expected after the death Friday of his half-brother and the UAE's president,…
What’s next for the UAE as Mohamed bin Zayed takes the reins?
Sheikh Khalifa presided over much of the UAE’s economic, technological, and social development.
Get all your news in one place
Latest World news:
Three killed as smuggling boat capsizes in Mexico: Official
Two people, including a child, also drowned after apparently attempting to cross river separating Mexico and Guatemala.
Read news from The Economist, FT, Bloomberg and more, with one subscription
Learn More
Ukraine’s President Accuses Russia of Waging ‘Total War’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of waging "total war," seeking to inflict as much death and destruction as possible…
‘Quad’ Talks in Japan Open With Eyes on China and Ukraine
Leaders from the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia are in Tokyo looking to bolster the Indo-Pacific group of major democratic…
Exclusive: Davos Photo Used by U.S. Congressman to Criticize China Didn’t Show Anyone Chinese
Figures accused of not standing up during an ovation for the Ukrainian president’s speech at the World Economic Forum were…
Training Courses on Counter-Terrorism Kick off in Rabat
The Rabat-based UNOCT Program Office for Counter-Terrorism and Training in Africa launched on Monday a series of specialized training courses…
From analysis to good news, read the world’s best news in one place
At Tokyo summit, Quad vows ‘tangible benefits’ to counter China
US, Japan, India and Australia unveil maritime surveillance plan, pledge infrastructure investment to counter China.
‘Attack on our identity’: Taiwanese Americans come together after tragic California shooting
Violence rocked a community already shook by years of rising hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Mohamed bin Zayed, from power behind throne to UAE ruler

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has been elected UAE president and ruler of Abu Dhabi. ©AFP

Abu Dhabi (AFP) - Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who was elected as UAE president on Saturday, has long been seen as a strongman who has driven the Gulf country's rise to greater prominence.

A trained soldier and football fan, Sheikh Mohamed has for years been the quiet power behind the throne of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The 61-year-old took office, as was widely expected, after the death on Friday of his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who had led the country since 2004.

Sheikh Mohamed was unanimously elected by the Federal Supreme Council, made up of rulers of the UAE's seven emirates.He has also been named as ruler of Abu Dhabi, which controls most of the country's oil wealth.

He has long wielded power, however.In a 2009 note to then US president Barack Obama leaked by WikiLeaks, former American ambassador Richard Olson said he was "the man who runs the United Arab Emirates".

Despite his low profile, and apparent reluctance to speak in public, his ambition has been on display in recent years as the UAE built its profile as a regional player.

He was first Gulf leader to strike a deal normalising relations with Israel, breaking with the decades-old Arab League consensus to isolate Israel until it agrees to the establishment of Palestinian state.

The UAE -- a collection of emirates better known for its skyscrapers, palm-shaped islands and opulent mega attractions -- has in short order built a nuclear power programme and sent a man to space.

And in July 2020 it joined another elite club by sending a probe to Mars, to mark the 50th anniversary of its unification.

Sheikh Mohamed, who was named crown prince of Abu Dhabi in November 2004, is the third son of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan -- the founder of the UAE.

He has been serving as deputy commander of the armed forces and chairman of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi, which controls the emirate's substantial finances.

Military muscle

Born in the capital on March 11, 1961, Sheikh Mohamed was sent to military school in Britain, where he graduated from the famed Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1979.

He rapidly rose through the ranks to become air force commander, deputy chief of staff and finally chief of staff in January 1993, and a year later was promoted to the rank of general.

Described by diplomats as Abu Dhabi's strongman, Sheikh Mohamed has forged links in world capitals, particularly in the West.

He is believed to have taken the decision to deploy troops in Yemen in 2015 as part of a Saudi-led military campaign against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

The Yemen war marked the first protracted military campaign abroad for the UAE and the first time it had to contend with military casualties, with dozens of Emirati soldiers killed.

The coalition has been denounced for air strikes, including on markets and hospitals, that have caused heavy civilian casualties in Yemen.

The UAE, which largely exited the conflict in 2019, was also accused of running secret prisons across southern Yemen.It denied the accusations.

Tight grip

Although Sheikh Mohamed does not often speak in public -- he left the November 2017 inaugural speech of the Louvre Abu Dhabi to Dubai ruler Mohammed bin Rashid -- his reach cannot be underestimated.

Under his leadership, Abu Dhabi has fostered trade and political ties across the region -- including, to a limited extent, with Shiite Iran -- but has sided with the US against Tehran's nuclear programme and with Saudi Arabia on its role in the mainly Sunni Arab world.

Sheikh Mohamed also took the lead on a staunch no-mercy domestic security policy.

Observers believe it was he who masterminded an unprecedented clampdown on Islamists in the UAE, with dozens handed lengthy jail terms over charges of ties to extremists.

At the same time, he crafted for the UAE a reputation of tolerance that contrasts with its conservative neighbours.

In 2017, he announced that Abu Dhabi's Grand Mosque, also known as Sheikh Zayed Mosque after his father, would be renamed the Mariam Umm Issa (Mary, Mother of Jesus) mosque as a means to "consolidate bonds of humanity between followers of different religions".

An avid football fan, Sheikh Mohamed is president of the local club in the oasis of Al-Ain, his father's hometown and the second largest city in Abu Dhabi.

He has also been spotted cycling through the capital in shorts and a helmet.

A keen hunter and a poetry enthusiast, he is married to fellow royal Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan.The couple has four sons and five daughters.

What is inkl?
The world’s most important news, from 100+ trusted global sources, in one place.
Morning Edition
Your daily
news overview

Morning Edition ensures you start your day well informed.

No paywalls, no clickbait, no ads
Enjoy beautiful reading

Content is only half the story. The world's best news experience is free from distraction: ad-free, clickbait-free, and beautifully designed.

Expert Curation
The news you need to know

Stories are ranked by proprietary algorithms based on importance and curated by real news journalists to ensure that you receive the most important stories as they break.

Dive Deeper:
UAE strongman Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed named new president
The United Arab Emirates' de facto leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan was elected president of the Gulf Arab state…
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan appointed as UAE president
Rulers in the United Arab Emirates have unanimously appointed Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the autocratic…
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan elected UAE president
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected by the Federal Supreme Council, the state-run WAM news agency says.
UAE's Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan named new president
It was not clear if President Joe Biden would be among world leaders heading to Abu Dhabi to offer condolences…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is named the UAE's new president
The ascension of Sheikh Mohammed, 61, had been expected after the death Friday of his half-brother and the UAE's president,…
What’s next for the UAE as Mohamed bin Zayed takes the reins?
Sheikh Khalifa presided over much of the UAE’s economic, technological, and social development.
Get all your news in one place