Cable reference id: #04ABUDHABI3410

Abu Dhabi is famous for the millionaires and billionaires that live there. It’s hard to believe that the UK had what to learn from them in therms of business and finance but exactly because of Abu Dhabi the Brit Method was invented.

Reference id aka Wikileaks id #21047  ? 

SubjectUae Succession Update: The Post-zayed Scenario
OriginEmbassy Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)
Cable timeTue, 28 Sep 2004 12:33 UTC
References03ABUDHABI4764, 04ABUDHABI1439, 04ABUDHABI165, 04ABUDHABI2254, 04ABUDHABI2566
Referenced by04ABUDHABI3526, 04ABUDHABI3527, 04ABUDHABI3855, 04ABUDHABI3955
  • Time unknown: Original unredacted version, leaked to Wikileaks
  • Thu, 1 Sep 2011 23:24: Original unredacted version published, with HTML goodies

Diana T Fritz 02/05/2007 05:29:08 PM From DB/Inbox: Search Results






DE RUEHAD #3410/01 2721233
R 281233Z SEP 04
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/27/14
TAGS: PINR [Intelligence], PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], TC
SUBJECT: UAE Succession Update: The Post-Zayed Scenario

Ref: (A) Abu Dhabi 2566, (B) Abu Dhabi 2254, (C) Abu Dhabi
1439, (D) Abu Dhabi 165, (E) 03 Abu Dhabi 4764

(U) Classified by Ambassador Michele J. Sison, reasons 1.4
(b) and (d).

¶1. (S) Summary: The UAE will likely experience a smooth
transition of power once the elderly President Sheikh Zayed
Bin Sultan Al Nahyan leaves the scene. Day-to-day
governance of the UAE is now firmly in the grasp of the
post-Zayed generation. Sheikh Zayed’s decree appointing
his son Mohammed as Abu Dhabi Deputy Crown Prince in
November 2003 clarified the line of succession. Dubai’s
dynamic Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
has done his part to assure a smooth succession by forging
close ties with Abu Dhabi, and especially Mohammed Bin
Zayed. Several of our contacts have confided to us that
the nonagenarian Sheikh Zayed may only have a few months to
live. End Summary.

Sheikh Zayed’s health watch

¶2. (S) Sheikh Zayed, beset by a variety of health problems
in recent years, including a kidney transplant (2000),
removal of the gall bladder (2003), minor surgery for a
hernia (2003), and a chronic problem with edema in his
legs, is weakening markedly, several of our contacts have
told us. There are recent uncorroborated reports that he
has contracted liver cancer and has only three months to
live. His public appearances are rare. A photograph taken
by the official UAE news agency in July shows him standing
and greeting his son Mohammed upon returning home from
Geneva after a private visit to the U.K. and Switzerland.
More recent news photographs show him smiling and waving
from the passenger seat of his chauffeur-driven car as he
tours a project. The photos, which closely resemble each
other, have fueled speculation that Sheikh Zayed’s health
is failing and the newspapers are using file photos. One
contact from Al Ain reported widespread dismay there at the
fact that Zayed, on his return to the UAE in early July,
did not appear to recognize or acknowledge the sons and
grandsons who filed up to greet him in a televised
reception ceremony.

Succession line is clear, for now

¶3. (C) While it has always been clear that Crown Prince
Khalifa, Zayed’s oldest son, would succeed his father,
until last fall, the succession line after Khalifa was
undefined. The principal contenders to succeed Khalifa as
Crown Prince were Zayed’s second and third oldest sons,
Deputy Prime Minister Sultan Bin Zayed and UAE Armed Forces
Chief of Staff Mohammed Bin Zayed. There were whispers in
some quarters about the possibility that Khalifa might
attempt to name his oldest son, businessman Sultan Bin
Khalifa, to succeed him.

¶4. (C) The speculation dissipated when Sheikh Zayed issued
a decree last November appointing Mohammed as Deputy Crown
Prince, with the explicit stipulation that Mohammed would
become Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi when that post became
vacant. Most in this country breathed a collective sigh of
relief at the decree. Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed
Bin Rashid Al Maktoum was pleased by the decision because
of the close ties he had been forging with Mohammed Bin
Zayed. The two have the ability to see the bigger picture
and have compatible visions for the country’s development.
Long-time ruling family advisers Mana’s Al Otaiba (a
businessman and former UAE oil minister) and Mohammed
Habroush Al Suweidi (Abu Dhabi Executive Council and
Supreme Petroleum Council member, and a close friend and
mentor to Crown Prince Khalifa), have told us that the
appointment was in the works for a long time. Habroush
described Mohammed as capable, hard working, and a natural
leader, and that everyone, including Sultan Bin Zayed,
welcomed and accepted the appointment. In addition, we
have heard that there was considerable behind-the-scenes
lobbying by Sheikh Zayed’s current wife, Sheikha Fatima
Bint Mubarak, and her six sons, Mohammed, Hamdan, Hazza,
Tahnoun, Mansour, and Abdullah. Collectively known as the
Bani Fatima, they effectively control the key portfolios:
defense, intelligence, information, and foreign affairs.
(Note: Currently, the Bani Fatima don’t control the purse
strings. With Sheikh Zayed’s passing, they stand to
inherit a considerable portion of his fortune,
conservatively estimated at over $60 billion. End note.)

¶5. (C) For most observers, the decree clarified the
succession picture. Others familiar with the inner
workings of the Al Nahyan ruling family of Abu Dhabi have
told us that the decree merely served as a pause, a kind of
truce between competing family members. After Zayed leaves
the scene, most Embassy contacts predict that the ruling
family will respect the succession line, and that Khalifa
(DOB 1948) and Mohammed (DOB 1961) will rule the UAE for
the next several decades. Some of our contacts have
outlined another scenario, which is plausible but we think
unlikely, involving a spillover of tensions between Khalifa
and Mohammed and a rejiggering of the succession line-up.
At that point, each presumably would draw upon his
loyalties in the extended family, the military, and the
tribes. Even if it were to come to that, no one here
imagines a violent showdown. “Draw swords? Not them,”
said an expatriate historian intimately familiar with the
Al Nahyans and family conflict resolution in earlier years.

First in the succession line: Khalifa Bin Zayed
——————————————— —

¶6. (C) When Sheikh Zayed departs the scene, Crown Prince
Khalifa will become the UAE’s new president and Abu Dhabi’s
new ruler. For the past 25 years, Khalifa Bin Zayed has
effectively held the purse strings for the Abu Dhabi
emirate, the wealthiest and most populous of the UAE’s
seven emirates, but also for the federation. Khalifa also
serves as Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council,
which decides which projects to fund in Abu Dhabi, Chairman
of the Supreme Petroleum Council, which formulates oil
policy, and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority,
which decides how the richest Emirate will invest its vast
wealth. On the federal level, Khalifa is the Deputy
Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. He enjoys
strong Al Nahyan extended family support, and has carefully
cultivated the major Abu Dhabi tribes, particularly from
the Bani Yas strongholds of Al Ain and Liwa. Particularly
significant for these tribesmen is the fact that Khalifa is
a “full” Al Nahyan i.e. both his father and his mother
are Al Nahyan, something that does not hold true for the
Bani Fatima.

Second in the succession line: Mohammed Bin Zayed
——————————————— —-

¶7. (C) According to Sheikh Zayed’s November 2003 decree,
his third eldest son, Mohammed Bin Zayed, is slated to
follow in his older brother Khalifa’s footsteps when their
father leaves the scene. Mohammed, widely regarded as a
man of action and vision, already has made his mark in the
UAE and abroad. As Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed Forces,
he has built his power base in the UAE military and wields
considerable influence over the country’s military
expenditures. He has also sought to build close ties with
senior policy makers of the UAE’s principal allies, the
U.S., France, and the United Kingdom. He visits Washington
regularly, meeting with senior Administration officials,
and greets foreign civilian and military dignitaries in Abu
Dhabi, including Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in July
(ref A). Charismatic, savvy, and very comfortable in the
West, he possesses many of the qualities Khalifa lacks.
Thanks to him, long-pending construction projects, such as
the $45 million Abu Dhabi International Airport expansion
and a major solid-waste disposal facility, are moving
again, and Abu Dhabi’s stagnant bureaucracy is being
overhauled. “He is a visionary, and very hands-on,” said
Sukaina Al Wasity, chief engineer at the Abu Dhabi
Department of Civil Aviation. “You can feel the
difference,” she said. He is also paying much closer
attention to his Deputy Crown Prince duties, including
attendance at weddings and soccer matches in the family
stronghold of Al Ain. His influential mother, Zayed’s
favored wife Sheikha Fatima, has played a key role in
promoting Sheikh Mohammed’s political fortunes, as well as
those of his full brothers.

No longer in line: Sultan Bin Zayed and Sultan Bin Khalifa
——————————————— ———–

¶8. (C) The decree appointing Mohammed as Deputy Crown
Prince last November removed two potential heirs to the
Emirate of Abu Dhabi: Sultan Bin Zayed, Zayed’s second son
and Deputy Prime Minister (ref D); and Sultan Bin Khalifa,
Crown Prince Khalifa’s eldest son and chief of staff.
Neither has mounted a challenge to the decree, nor is there
any apparent maneuver by either one to get the decision
reversed at least not while Zayed is alive, our sources
assure us.

¶9. (S) Deputy Prime Minister Sultan Bin Zayed (DOB 1955)
has had periodic bouts with substance abuse and gained
notoriety for his mismanagement of funds and his failure to
successfully complete high visibility projects such as Lu
Lu Island or Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque. (Note: Recently,
Sultan Bin Zayed was in Germany again — to receive
further treatment for his substance abuse problem. End
note.) Sultan Bin Zayed’s foreign policy views (we have
been told he vigorously opposed U.S. intervention in Iraq)
are at odds with those of his senior relatives. While none
of our contacts thought Sultan was capable of mounting a
challenge against his half-brother Mohammed, let alone
leading the UAE, one contact told us that Sultan has tried
to reinvent himself this past year by actually showing up
to chair the federal Council of Ministers. Last year,
Sheikh Zayed appointed his fourth oldest son, Hamdan, as
Deputy Prime Minister. We believe that move was designed
to strengthen the Council of Ministers by having it chaired
by the very capable Hamdan, who kept his portfolio as
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Instead, Hamdan and
Sultan (who defied expectations by declining to fade away
quietly from his Council of Ministers role) have shared the
chairmanship this past year. In actuality, Sultan is a
figurehead in this capacity. He also greets visiting Arab
heads of state at the airport, and is a member of the Abu
Dhabi Executive Council.

¶10. (S) Another person with a potential claim on the
succession is that of Sultan Bin Khalifa (DOB 1965), Crown
Prince Khalifa’s oldest son and chief of staff of his
court. A prominent and reportedly corrupt businessman,
Sultan Bin Khalifa serves on the Abu Dhabi Executive
Council, and is honorary president of the Abu Dhabi Chamber
of Commerce. Two different contacts of ours told us that
Sultan Bin Khalifa was undoubtedly upset with the
presidential decree appointing Mohammed as Deputy Crown
Prince. “Sultan was groomed for the last 10 to 20 years
for this,” one contact said. “He has been waiting in the
wings” and no doubt has political ambitions, though he is
not likely to pursue them until after Zayed has departed
the scene, said the other.

Supporting cast

¶11. (C) Besides Khalifa and Mohammed, there are other
rulers and sheikhs who are helping shape the political and
economic landscape in the post-Zayed era. As noted
earlier, one of the most capable is Deputy Prime Minister
and de facto Foreign Minister Hamdan Bin Zayed. In April,
Sheikh Hamdan led pioneering trips to East Asia and Germany
to cement political and economic ties with the UAE’s key
trading partners (ref C). In 2003, he concluded an
agreement with Oman over a long-standing border dispute
(ref E). Hamdan also headed a high-level delegation to
Iran in May 2002, and chairs the Red Crescent Authority
that took the lead on the UAE’s humanitarian assistance to
Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Palestinians. There is
speculation that after Zayed’s death, Crown Prince Khalifa
will attempt to appoint his son Sultan Bin Khalifa as
Deputy Crown Prince, but there is also speculation that the
Bani Fatima will engineer the process so that Hamdan
becomes Deputy Crown Prince.

¶12. (C) Younger brother Abdullah, the Information and
Culture Minister, is pro-West, articulate, and a rising
star. His brothers have entrusted him with the Syria and
Lebanon portfolio. We have been told he may be given the
Foreign Ministry in the not-too-distant future, to allow
Hamdan to expand his role in running the Council of
Ministers. Hazza, the State Security Director, is very
close to Mohammed and is keen on maintaining close ties
with the U.S. Although not one of the Bani Fatima, half-
brother Hamed is playing an increasingly significant role
in the economic sphere, as illustrated by his appointment
to the Supreme Petroleum Council in June. Hamed is young,
dynamic and Western-educated, and also chairs the Abu Dhabi
Economic Department and sits on the Abu Dhabi Executive
Council (ref B). This younger generation is, in turn,
“surrounding themselves with can-do people,” observed a
long-time expatriate who advises Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed.
As a result, the UAE “is in good hands with people of
vision,” he added. Al Wasity, the engineer, agrees with
that assessment. “The sheikhs are taking care of things.
The rulers have been kind to the people, providing housing,
education, jobs and health care.” She said Emirati women
are hoping that the sheikhs will open up the political
space to allow them to participate.

Dubai and the Northern Emirates

¶13. (C) An hour and a half up the freeway from Abu Dhabi,
Dubai Emirate is busy shaping its own political and
economic future, and in some sense, the image of the
federation as well. The dynamic Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid
Al Maktoum, younger brother of Dubai’s titular Ruler
Maktoum Bin Rashid, effectively rules Dubai, and is
credited with having put Dubai on the world commercial and
tourism map. Some of Dubai’s more controversial plans,
like fully legalized land sales to foreigners and
(possibly) legalized gambling, have been put on ice due to
deference to Sheikh Zayed’s wishes. There is much
speculation that once Sheikh Zayed departs, Dubai may feel
more free to push the limits of what is acceptable to
Federal (read: Abu Dhabi) authorities. Dubai had no
aspirations to run the UAE, and its leaders appear, if
anything, relieved that they do not have to be distracted
in their quest for economic development and expanded trade
and investment relations by the need to worry about defense
and foreign policy matters.

¶14. (C) While Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid has recently made
an effort to forge closer ties to Sheikh Khalifa, it seems
clear that he is by disposition inclined to ally himself
more closely with the younger, more modern and quick-
thinking Bani Fatima, particularly Sheikh Mohammed Bin
Zayed. (Note: Sheikh Mohammed is the federation’s titular
Minister of Defense, but has ceded all control of the armed
forces to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed’s control. End note.)
Dubai has its own succession dilemma to resolve once its
Ruler, Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also
UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, steps down. Like
Dubai, the other Northern Emirates have no aspirations to
national leadership beyond the ministerial positions that
are carefully allotted to each emirate. Thus, while the
UAE constitution does not specifically state that the Ruler
of Abu Dhabi should also serve as the President of the UAE,
there is every reason to believe that it will continue to
be the case even after the passing of Zayed.


¶15. (C) The transition of power from UAE President Sheikh
Zayed to the next generation of Emirati leaders has in
effect already happened. One key to this smooth transition
was the presidential decree issued 10 months ago anointing
Sheikh Zayed’s third oldest son, Mohammed, as Deputy Crown
Prince of Abu Dhabi and third in line to the UAE presidency
(assuming, per the UAE Constitution, the consent of the
other emirates’ rulers when that time comes). In keeping
with Al Nahyan tradition, the family will not allow the
dispute to become public. In our estimation, the current
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Hamdan Bin
Zayed, is the strongest contender to follow Khalifa and
Mohammed in the lineup.