Paul Lachine

Deconstructing Saleh

Ali Abdullah Saleh is finished as Yemen’s president, abandoned by his closest allies in the face of massive popular pressure to step down. But Saleh will not shuffle off the historical stage until the US stops trying to revive his dying regime.

LONDON – Ali Abdullah Saleh is finished as Yemen’s president. Popular democratic protests that started on a small scale in mid-February outside Sanaa University have widened to encompass the whole country. The continuity and strength of the demonstrations clearly indicate that the regime’s days are numbered. Tribal leaders have joined the protesters. Even close allies who belong to Saleh’s own Hashid tribe, such as Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, have abandoned him. Now, even his long-term protector, the United States, seems to be abandoning him.

Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, knows that his time is up. “They are falling like leaves in autumn,” he recently said of the regime’s defectors. Resignations have increased: ambassadors, ministers, significant media figures, and army generals.

It is the last group that is decisive: when senior military and security personnel abandon an authoritarian regime in the face of popular pressure, its days are numbered. Yet Saleh retains the loyalty of the interior ministry, the Republican Guard, and part of the air force. Still, clashes between the army and the Republican Guard are further eroding the regime’s coherence.

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