Yemen: The End Is Nigh


April 25, 2011: Despite president Saleh's agreement to leave, disputes over the exact terms of the deal, and disagreement among protest groups about how quickly Saleh should depart, mean that the demonstrations continue. Most Yemenis apparently won't be happy until they see Saleh running for the airport, or the border. But Saleh has a large extended family and many long-time, loyal friends he wants to take care of on his way out. This may not be possible, and his friends and family are beginning to sense that. It's all coming apart. The end is nigh.

Three months of violence have left nearly 200 dead and thousands wounded or injured. Most Yemenis can agree on wanting Saleh out, and electing a government that will do something about Yemen's growing list of problems. That may be difficult, as the country is still divided by tribal, religious and political differences. While the majority many not want another civil war, several minority groups don't mind more violence.

Meanwhile,  powerful and rich neighbors to the north (especially Saudi Arabia) are not willing to let Yemen become a haven for Islamic terrorists or outlaws of any sort. Saleh survived such Saudi displeasure by acting strongly against anyone who would threaten the Saudis. Any Saleh successor has to continue that, or else.

The problem at this point is that a lot of people just don't trust Saleh. The beleaguered president used divide and conquer tactics for decades, and this involved a lot of lying and doubletalk. Saleh doesn't have a lot of credibility left with Yemenis. Increasingly, the only people Saleh can depend on are family, especially sons and other close kin who command army and police units. Even though these are the most effective units (the Republican Guard and Special Forces), it's not enough. Army and police units continue to defect. Civil war has not begun yet, as loyal and rebel military units hold their fire. But it's getting close, and few Yemenis want a civil war. They just want Saleh gone. What comes after that is a bit of a mystery, one that is not a major concern to most protestors.

April 24, 2011: Despite all the protests, life goes on. Today a Saudi Arabian diplomat was kidnapped in the capital and $1.3 million in ransom was demanded. Actually, the ransom was not described as ransom, but the amount of money a Saudi businessman was said to owe members of the tribe that is holding the Saudi diplomat. Kidnapping continues to be a common way of settling disputes here. Meanwhile, in the south, al Qaeda ambushed some Republican Guard troops, and in the subsequent fight, eight soldiers were wounded and two terrorists killed. In central Yemen, someone fired on a power station, temporarily shutting it down and causing local electricity shortages.

April 23, 2011: President Saleh agreed to leave within 30 days, if he and his family received immunity from prosecution. This deal was offered by Gulf Cooperation Council negotiators, who have been trying to broker a deal between Saleh and his many opponents. The immediate reaction among Yemenis was negative.

April 22, 2011: As usual, for the last two months, there were bigger anti-Saleh demonstrations each Friday than the previous one. Several hundred thousand people rallied in the capital and other major cities today. At least two soldiers died, and over 30 were taken prisoner during gun battles with tribesmen in the south.

April 21, 2011: Smaller demonstrations take place daily, and the police and troops increasingly open fire to keep people out of government buildings and military bases. Thus there are dozens of injured each day, including a few fatalities.

April 18, 2011: In the Red Sea port town of Hudaida, anti-Saleh demonstrations got particularly violent, and nearly a hundred people were injured as police opened fire.



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