UAE: Variables, Constants in Third President’s Approach

The United Arab Emirates bid farewell on May 13, 2022 to late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the country’s second president, who passed away after more than five decades of service and achievements.

Being the eldest son of late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE federation, late Sheikh Khalifa was his assistant and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. He was entrusted with major tasks, topped by the establishment of now-leading sovereign investment funds such as the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the Abu Dhabi Development Fund. One of his key tasks was to complete unifying the UAE Armed Forces under one flag and one leadership, which he achieved in 1976, consolidating the federal state’s structure and uniting its emirates.

Sheikh Khalifa succeeded his father in 2004 after he was unanimously elected as president by the Federal Supreme Council. He was keen to advance the development and growth process and shift from the state’s formation phase, which it ably passed, to the empowerment phase, during which the UAE witnessed a major economic boom and an unprecedented urban renaissance.

The late president was also determined to achieve internal political openness in line with the economic development. He launched an initiative to develop the legislative authority in order to modify the technique of selecting members of the Federal National Council combining the process of election and appointment as a first step. This was aimed at providing an opportunity to select members of the Council through direct elections. He further supported the participation of women and youth in the building and construction process and launched a constructive diplomatic dynamic including various programs to encourage cooperation and aid. This was culminated in the form of gifts, soft loans, financial deposits in banks of troubled countries or significant investments.

The history will not only mention all these achievements but also underscore his ability to share power with his siblings and the community in the decision-making process by taking into consideration different opinions and delegating tasks. This has allowed the smooth transfer of power to his brother Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who have been calling the shots for years while Sheikh Khalifa was sidelined by poor health.

Considering these facts, not much will change in the UAE foreign and domestic policies. The new president is expected to carry on with the country’s policy of openness by gradually rehabilitating the federal institutions and activating their role to increase national cohesion and applying the values ​​of participation and the Shura approach by holding the weekly session to listen to the suggestions and complaints of wide segments of the citizens and expatriates.

Sheikh Mohamed is also expected to pursue the UAE’s foreign diplomacy, which he worked on developing and implementing by providing all the necessary financial and human resources to ensure its success. His efforts focused on presenting the UAE as a model for a society that develops in a modern and moderate manner at the global level and represents a beacon of cultural and intellectual pluralism, upholding the values of tolerance and human solidarity and spreading the principles of coexistence, peace and mutual respect while confronting hatred, intolerance and religious radicalism.

The UAE leadership’s adherence to its initial commitments at the level of foreign policy does not negate its pragmatism and flexibility, which will certainly lead to some changes and modifications that will often affect the procedural aspect by reassessing several diplomatic stances and steps, especially at the Arab and Islamic levels.

In this context, reliable European diplomatic sources expect the UAE to commence by taking the following steps:

  • Double the budgets of humanitarian, medical and food aid and intensify relief operations for the victims of conflicts and natural disasters.
  • Continue to provide the necessary support for global scientific research to fight incurable and rampant diseases and address the consequences of climate and environmental changes.
  • Control the individual behaviors and actions of some figures tasked with implementing a number of programs that caused misunderstanding of the country’s policies, affected its ties with several countries and contributed to unjustified and unacceptable hostility towards the UAE.
  • Reconsider the form and content of the media discourse to assert that the UAE seeks to maintain stability in the regional countries to attract investments and achieve prosperity and is not aimed at interfering in other countries’ internal affairs and find an objective and professional response to the circulated false slanders and accusations leveled against the country.

According to a western informed diplomatic source, the return of warmth to relations with Turkey represents the first step in the reconsideration process, which was recently embodied in the low level of contact with political Islam circles and the halt of appeals to include Islamic groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, in the various international lists of terrorist organizations.

The source said the UAE has realized that the United States and Europe will not respond to these demands.

The western intelligence departments will not give up these groups that represent an inexhaustible source of information since they control dozens of financial, commercial, social and educational institutions, some of which are active in their (western) territories, the source added.

The newly-elected President said in remarks at the presence of members of the Federal Supreme Council that the responsibility entrusted to him is huge and the burden is heavy.

However, the popular support for Sheikh Mohamed and the confidence in his leadership is greater that this burden.