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The Most Durable and Important Leaders of the Middle East

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler well as an amateur astrologer who loves to visit and explore new places.



The Middle East is an important area that straddles the ancient route between Europe and Asia. Comprising a predominantly Muslim population, the Middle East in the majority is ruled by despotic regimes. Democracy is virtually unknown as these states for centuries have only known autocracy. An agitation called the Arab Spring did take place and swept away many despotic leaders like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Yemeni President, Ali Abdullah Saleh. But the movement died down and the situation in the Middle East is back to square one. Mohammed Morsi for example who was elected president of Egypt was overthrown by the Military under general Sissy. He was tried and always brought to the court and put in a cage. He died of a heart attack and Egypt was back to autocracy and military rule. Earlier the USA had toppled another dictator Saddam Hussain of Iraq and acquiesced in his hanging which, to say the least, made a mockery of so-called freedom propounded by the USA.

The Middle East is presently in ferment with extremist Muslim organizations like Hamas, Al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood waiting in the wings. These organizations have their own agenda for a Muslim Caliphate across the region. In such a situation some leaders have survived and given effective leadership.

These are the standout leaders and though many are autocratic yet they have led their nations admirably towards the path of peace and progress.

One point that needs to be emphasized is that the western powers notably the former imperial powers like France and UK always believed in the policy of 'Divide and Rule.' This is like their staple diet. They did the same thing in the Sub-continent when they divided the Indian state into two. It is now 3 states as Bangladesh has proved that Islam alone cannot be a unifying factor.

Similarly, in a secret agreement called the Sykes-Picot agreement, the Ottoman Empire was carved out between French and British spheres of influence. They created artificial borders and the roots of the problem in the Middle East can be traced to this agreement.

Despite this, its worth having a look at the most pragmatic and progressive rulers in this region.


The progressive lot

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum,

The first name is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. Sheikh Maktoum is the antithesis of rulers in other Muslim states. He is pragmatic and progressive. With his vision, he has transferred Dubai into a major financial and commercial center. His approach is secular as he has allowed a Church and Sikh Gurudwara to be built at Jebel Ali in Dubai. A Hindu temple has been in existence in Bar-Dubai for over 100 years. Sheikh Maktoum is furthering his dream of making Dubai into a mega-metropolis. He has strong relations with the USA and has steered clear of sectarian politics based on religion. He is a man with a vision and has transformed Dubai into the 'El Dorado' of the east. One has to go to Dubai to see the phenomenal progress the state has made under his reign. The place is an oasis of tranquility and the leader has shown his acumen by supporting the recognition of Israel as a state.

ShiekhMohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

The next name that crops is the ShiekhMohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi He is popularly known by his initials MBZ. He was in the news recently when he donated land for the largest Hindu temple in the Middle East and now construction is in full swing. Abu Dhabi has developed by leaps and bounds and has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. It's an extremely modernistic state shorn of rhetoric and bars and beaches are all over. It also sits on some of the largest oil reserves in the world and it is on record that in the last 20 years just one execution has taken place. The rulers of the UAE are instrumental in a forward and progressive policy and closely allied with the USA. UAE recogniized Israel a few months back.

Abdullah II

The next name that crops up is that of Jordan's Abdullah II. Abdullah II is handicapped, as his country has no oil and is a barren desert. He is a staunch ally of the USA which subsidizes the Jordanian economy. He draws his strength from tribes in the East bank, who have traditionally supported the Hashemite dynasty. Hussain has faced some sporadic demonstrations against his rule, but he has held on to power. He would like to usher in democracy, but the tribes that support him may perhaps not allow him. Abdullah II remains the best bet of the USA. His father was one of the first nations to normalize relations with Israel.

Crown Prince MBS of Saudi Arabia.

The crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (born 31 August 1985), colloquially known as MBS, is the next man on my list. He has been the de facto ruler since 21 June 2017. He is currently serving as the country's Deputy Prime mInister but he wields all the power. MBS has brought about a tremendous change in Saudi Arabia. He is a progressive leader and women have been given many rights and the guardianship proviso which required a woman to always have the approval of a man in her household is abolished. He is also diversifying the economy and is planning a similar metropolis like Dubai. He is favorably inclined to Israel and may soon recognize the country. There was some controversy regarding the killing of a journalist in the Saudi embassy in Turkey, but it has not reached anywhere and MBS is firmly in the saddle. He created quite a controversy when he stated that the Hadiths do not condone extremism.

Bashar Al-Assad

.Bashar Al-Assad is the President of Syria and cannot be ignored. Despite an insurrection against him, supported by the Western powers, Assad remains in control. There is a realization in the west that the opposition against Assad has been infiltrated by extremist Muslim organizations like al Qaeda. His ouster is most unlikely with Iran and Russia backing him. Assad is a great survivor as the Arab spring has not been able to dislodge him.

Benjamin Netanyahu

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No list can be complete without the ex-Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel is the only democracy in the region. Netanyahu has his hands full facing the entire Arab World. But thanks to his diplomacy and Donald Trump who engineered the Abraham accord, many Arab countries have realized the futility of a confrontation with Israel. Netanyahu has been ousted as he failed to cobble a majority but his contribution cannot be overlooked.


Last word

The Middle East is a very important area as far as the world is concerned. Firstly, it is a source of oil and secondly, it has great strategic importance. Unfortunately, as I have already pointed out the countries borders were artificially drawn in 1916 and that has led to its own problems. However, the leaders which I have mentioned are a progressive lot but there are many negative leaders also, like those in Iraq and Iran. The biggest threat is from Turkey which at one time was the Ottoman Empire and controlled most of this region. They would like to come back and take leadership of the Muslim world.

A big change in this region is the acceptance of India as a partner and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as Israel and the state of Palestine, Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has honored the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the highest civilian awards.

Everybody can have his choice of leaders but with the years I have spent in the Middle East, these are my best bet.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 11, 2021:

Vanita, welcome comment. Yes, big changes are on the way and women have a better deal.

Vanita Thakkar on July 11, 2021:

A very informative and interesting article - raising hopes as well. Especially gladdening is the information that welcome changes are coming about in the condition of women in the Middle East.

Thanks for sharing.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 10, 2021:

Thank you, Pamela, for sparing time and commenting.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 10, 2021:

This is a good article about the important leaders of the Middle East, MG. I was glad to read about some facts I didn't know. I have no idea how all this will work out due to those groups who want to rule us all.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 10, 2021:

Thank you Manatitaji, yes there are pragmatic leaders so all is not lost.

manatita44 from london on July 10, 2021:

Great history lesson Emge. Divide and Rule has creaded endless problems but the enemy is the same: greed thirst for power and fame.

I am impressed by one or two emerging leaders. Gives us hope.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 09, 2021:

Peggy, nice of you to have commented. Yes, winds of change are blowing in some countries in the ME and women are being given rights.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 09, 2021:

Chitra, thank you, for sparing time and commenting.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 09, 2021:

That slain journalist was a horrific incident! Your perspective of this region was interesting to read. I am glad to know in some Middle East countries, women are gaining more freedom.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 09, 2021:

This is a very informative article about Middle East, and it’s leaders.

Thank you for sharing this.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 09, 2021:

Bill, it's always a pleasure to read your comments. Thank you.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 09, 2021:

Thank you for your comment. I am sorry that your community is facing all these problems. I am aware of it. Christians also are facing discrimination and I remember reading that in 1998 the Bishop of Lahore shot himself dead in front of the high court because he wanted to highlight the discrimination against Christians.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 09, 2021:

Your perspective is always interesting. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with me.

Nawab on July 09, 2021:

Your mention that MBS says Hadiths don't condone extremism. but we Ahmadiyyas are totally unsafe in Pakistan where many of us are killed and blatant discrimination.

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