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The Death of Former Yemeni President Saleh
By admin December 5, 2017

In a recent turn of events, Yemen’s deadly war has also claimed the life of the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Monday. This comes as a shock to most Yemenis, as it occurred only days after Saleh had announced he was open to negotiating talks with a Saudi-led coalition that Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been fighting. This move had received widespread denunciation from the Houthis who viewed the talks as a coup, and subsequently Houthi rebels killed Saleh in a roadside ambush as Saleh had attempted to leave the capital of Sanaa.

Saleh is remembered as the man who built modern Yemen, yet he was also willing to let it suffer as he helped spark a civil war. He was named president of North Yemen in July 1978, and he continued on to rule for 33 years, surviving multiple assassination attempts until the Arab spring uprising of 2011 ousted him. During his reign as president, Saleh ensured the merger of North and South Yemen, fought two civil wars, and formed yet abandoned any number of alliances of convenience in the process. This also included the Houthis, a group of Zaidi Shia rebels that he most recently and audaciously attempted to outmaneuver by offering to link up with their enemies, the Saudis, and resulting in Saleh’s demise.

Although Saleh had brokered an alliance with the Houthis back in 2011, his move to help the Houthis rise to power had been tactical in hopes of either bringing himself or his son back to power. When the latest round of civil war erupted, Saleh threw his support behind the Houthis yet continued to signal willingness to deal with Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, whom were the Saudis’ most important partner in the war. The Houthis had long been suspicious of his lukewarm support, and his break from the Houthis on Saturday was confirmation of a fragile alliance. The Houthis interpreted his move as a coup and their militia launched fierce battles with Saleh’s allies around the capital city.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has also stated that air strikes on Sanaa had intensified, with reports by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stating that roads had been blocked and multiple tanks were out on the streets. The Red Cross also estimates that more than 125 people have been killed since Friday with outbreaks of clashes. This has prompted the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen to call for a humanitarian pause on December 5 to allow civilians to leave their homes and seek assistance, as well as for aid workers to continue their life-saving programmes.

Saleh’s death has left the future of Yemen’s conflict in grimmer reality. The Saudis must decide whether or not to engage in mediation efforts, which is further exacerbated by a climate filled with mistrust, or to push on with a military campaign that has had few notable successes over the past few years. Although Saleh had been a divisive figure, he was also an enigma of a man capable of brokering some kind of settlement. His death now makes the immediate prospect of peace even less likely, and it has left Yemen in a deeper polarization of conflict.

 

Further Reading:

Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former leader, killed in Sanaa

Yemen’s future looks grim after Saleh’s killing

Yemen’s Houthis: Saleh’s overture to Saudi ‘a coup’

Yemen: Ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh killed

Yemen’s Houthi: Ali Abdulla Saleh killed for ‘treason’


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