Yemen conflict deepens as dissident general's troops enter fray
The return of President Ali Abdullah Saleh has sharpened the fight between his supporters and rivals – and raised concerns that the citizens who started the peaceful uprising will be the losers.
(Page 3 of 3)
But despite siding with the opposition, both Mohsen and the Ahmars are dependent and deeply entrenched in the power structure that the protesters are hoping to uproot. As a nephew of one of Yemen’s senior ministers described it: “They are like pieces of from the cake, you can’t take one out and see it separately from the rest. These men have built power bases and amassed fortunes by working through the system created by Saleh. They only decided they wanted out once they saw that the regime was falling.”Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
One of the reasons the political impasse in Yemen has been so protracted is because all three – Saleh, Mohsen, and the Ahmars – are locked in a struggle to get what they want and have been acting as spoilers at various points along the way.
The protesters stuck in the middle
As the world focuses on Yemen’s three-way power struggle, the grass-roots coalition of young people and activists whose demonstrations first put pressure on Saleh back in January is slowly being undermined.
Saleh, who for years has ruled Yemen by a divide-and-conquer strategy, painted a picture in his latest speech of the youth being used as cannon fodder by his power-hungry rivals.
“You [the youth] are only victims that were forced into wars and led to the front lines, while armed crews opened fire and killed security forces in the streets,” he said.
Saleh’s belittling of the youth roused anger and offense, especially among the hundreds of relatives whose loved ones have been killed and maimed over the past months. But there is an unspoken and steadily mounting fear among protesters that if they do not continue escalating their rallies, that those who started this thing may wind up getting nothing.
That is why there is so much animosity toward the deal proposed by the Gulf Cooperation Council – a face-saving agreement drawn up by the Gulf monarchies that would see Saleh relinquish power in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The youth see it as an elitist political maneuver that cuts them out of the equation and lets Saleh and his entourage off the hook.
For months now the international community has watched Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab World, descend into civil strife. Anti-government demonstrations first sprang up here back in January accompanying those in Tunisia and Egypt. Three months later as NATO began dropping bombs on Libya to protect civilians, dozens in Yemen were being killed in government crackdowns.
For now Yemen is still seen as too dangerous a case to interfere in, primarily because it is believed to house one of the worlds most dangerous branches of Al-Qaeda. But as the death toll rises and instability spreads, the delicate dance of the West, with its tacit support for Saleh, is looking more and more untenable.