Sheikh Khalifa, leader of the United Arab Emirates, dies at 73

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who harnessed the oil wealth of the United Arab Emirates to make the Persian Gulf nation an economic...

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who harnessed the oil wealth of the United Arab Emirates to make the Persian Gulf nation an economic powerhouse and a close partner of the United States during his 18 years as head of state, is died on Friday, the state-run Emirates News Agency reported. He was 73 years old.

The agency gave no cause of death, but Sheikh Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014 and subsequently retired from many of his public duties. The government announced that government offices and private businesses would close for three days from Friday and a 40-day mourning period would be observed across the country.

Sheikh Khalifa became the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven semi-autonomous city-states along the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, after the death of his father in 2004. His tenure was marked by a development rapid economy, shaken only by debt. crisis in the glitzy metropolis of Dubai in the late 2000s that he helped end by pouring billions of dollars from the wealthier emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Dubai thanked him by naming the tallest building in the world after him, changing its name from Burj Dubai to Burj Khalifa.

His reign was also punctuated by unrest around the Middle East. During the uprisings known as the Arab Spring, which swept across the region in 2011, his government intervened behind the scenes to support strongmen and undermine political Islamists. Its military has worked closely with the United States in Afghanistan, joined the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and partnered with Saudi Arabia in its military intervention against Houthi rebels in Yemen in 2015.

It was during his tenure that the Emirates and neighboring Bahrain established formal diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020, the first Arab states to normalize relations with the Jewish state in nearly three decades.

In the Emirates, he was a towering, if distant, figure who rarely appeared in public but whose image was seemingly everywhere: on the walls of government offices and behind hotel reception desks. As well as being the emir of Abu Dhabi, he served as the country’s president and head of its armed forces, investment fund and oil council, which oversees oil policy.

After his stroke, he retired from the day-to-day business of government, delegating power to his younger half-brother, Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nayhanthe Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, who has championed a more assertive foreign policy.

Sheikh Mohammed was expected to succeed Sheikh Khalifa as the new ruler of the Emirates, but no information on the formal succession process was immediately available.

In a post on TwitterSheikh Mohammed said the Emiratis were “united in grief” at the loss of a “brother and mentor”.

“We have been blessed by your strength, wisdom and leadership,” he wrote.

In a statement, President Biden called Sheikh Khalifa a “true partner and friend of the United States” and said his government would “honor his memory by continuing to strengthen the long-standing bonds between the governments and peoples of the states.” United States and the United Arab Emirates”. .”

Like other oil-rich Persian Gulf monarchies, the Emirates have long looked to the United States for protection from external threats and as a place to buy expensive military hardware.

But tensions between the two countries have risen this year over the Emirates’ resistance to joining Western efforts to isolate Russian President Vladimir V. Putin over his invasion of Ukraine. Relations are also clouded by a feeling in the Emirates that the United States is not doing enough to provide security for its Gulf partners, particularly Iran and its armed proxies.

Sheikh Khalifa was born in 1948 in the oasis of Al Ain in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the first son of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who would become the first ruler of the Emirates after independence, and Hassa bint Mohammad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan. .

At the time, Abu Dhabi was one of a collection of Arab sheikhs from southeastern Arabia who had signed protective treaties with the British.

Sheikh Khalifa studied at Britain’s Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and in 1966 the British installed his father as ruler of Abu Dhabi in a bloodless coup against his older brother.

Sheikh Khalifa returned to Abu Dhabi to work under his father, and his role grew after the independence of the Emirates in 1971 and his father’s appointment as head of state. Sheikh Khalifa headed the oil council, which oversaw oil policy, a key post in a desert country with few resources other than hydrocarbons.

He also oversaw the country’s armed forces and sovereign wealth fund, which has reached around $700 billion, making it one of the largest in the world.

His father died in 2004 and Sheikh Khalifa succeeded him as ruler of Abu Dhabi and as President of the Emirates the following day, positions he held until his death.

His personal wealth would have been great. In 2011, Forbes reported that he was worth $15 billion, making him one of the richest monarchs in the world. In 2018, the magazine named him No. 43 on its list of the most powerful people in the world.

Sheikh Khalifa is survived by his wife, Shamsa bint Suhail Al Mazrouei, their eight children and an undisclosed number of grandchildren.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Sheikh Khalifa, leader of the United Arab Emirates, dies at 73
Sheikh Khalifa, leader of the United Arab Emirates, dies at 73
Newsrust - US Top News
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