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Saleh Is Dead, But Yemen’s Suffering Continues

The Houthi-Saleh alliance collapsed in vicious fighting over the weekend that claimed dozens of lives in the capital, including that of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh [1] himself:

A video by Yemen’s Houthi rebels purports to show the slain body of the country’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Officials from various sides in the country’s civil war, including the Houthis’ opponents, have confirmed that the video shows the former strongman.

Saleh had been the president of North Yemen and then unified Yemen for more than thirty years when he was ousted in 2011, but his influence once out of office remained substantial. His alliance with the Houthis was always an opportunistic one, and he has previously fought six wars against them as president, so mutual interest had been the main thing that had held them together until now. Saleh seems to have gambled that turning against the Houthis was more to his advantage now, but if so he miscalculated. The Saudi-led coalition had likewise gambled on Saleh’s success, but like so many of their other plans it backfired. Saleh had been a fixture of Yemeni politics for so long that it is hard to know how his death will change things, but the effect will likely be significant.

The fighting in the capital over the weekend was already very destructive and caused many civilian casualties, and further fighting between the factions there will be even more devastating. If the breakdown of the Houthi-Saleh alliance prompts a coalition assault on the capital, the loss of life could be great. The humanitarian situation in the country continues to grow more dire as the coalition blockade deprives the population of essential food, fuel, and medicine. The civilian population needs a complete halt to the fighting now more than ever, but unfortunately that seems unlikely to follow these events.

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9 Comments To "Saleh Is Dead, But Yemen’s Suffering Continues"

#1 Comment By a spencer On December 4, 2017 @ 10:48 am

I can hardly wait for the Saudi’s breathless stenographers in the US to revise the history of a man who backed Saddam Hussein in 1991, then skimmed millions of dollars off the top of the military aid the US gave him over decades after he returned to the fold.

One of my most enduring memories of Saleh’s Yemen was a woman with her two children sleeping on the sidewalk outside the Supreme Authority Combatting Corruption. Illiteracy and poverty were rampant. Saleh’s government admitted there were 1.4 million children in the country without *any* access to education as the US sent him bushel baskets full of money.

#2 Comment By Sid Finster On December 4, 2017 @ 12:28 pm

The Yemenis have a storied history as guerillas, going back to the Ottoman days.

Then they bloodied the British, then evicted the Egyptians, now the Saudis.

#3 Comment By Annab On December 4, 2017 @ 12:52 pm

Saleh visited the U.S. many times, AND he managed to retain a democracy unheard of on the Arabian Peninsula. We threw him away with the advent of Obama. Why? I have exceptions to Saleh’s Yemen, but compared to today’s Yemen, they dim in comparison.

I agree that there were many left behind, but nothing to compare to the maybe 15,000,000 starving because of our stupid policies with regard to Yemen? Do we want to face the world court in the Hague because of our actions?

#4 Comment By a spencer On December 4, 2017 @ 12:55 pm

For what its worth, both the Houthis and GPC have apparently made statements: the Houthis saying this is not against the GPC whom they consider “valuable” and “brothers” in the fight against the coalition; meanwhile, the GPC saying they’re still against the Saudi coalition whether they’re in alliance with the Houthis or not.

Of course, that and a buck will get you a cup of coffee at your nearest convenience store. Its Yemen, so things can change quickly.

#5 Comment By a spencer On December 4, 2017 @ 1:36 pm

Annab,

I’m a little flummoxed by your comment. Yes, we are contributing to a crime against humanity right now, but whatever deal Saleh struck with the KSA was not going to put him back in power. Considering how apparently easy it was for the Houthis to kill him, it wouldn’t surprise me if some pissed-off GPC members gave him up.

Also, how does having power for 33 years equal “retaining democracy”? Its hard to imagine anyone, on any side, who didn’t think Saleh was thoroughly corrupt. He was in power for more than two years after Obama came into office, getting the same payoffs. His regime became untenable in January 2011 when, like their sisters and brothers in other US-allied states Tunisia and Egypt, Yemenis took to the streets and demanded he step down. Are you suggesting we should have done everything we could to ensure Ben Ali, Mubarak and Saleh stayed in power?

More than “many were left behind”, millions of people were among the poorest on earth for decades under Saleh while the US looked the other way and paid for his military. You’re correct, the entire situation is exacerbated now through US acquiescence to KSA, but I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

#6 Comment By Annab On December 4, 2017 @ 1:55 pm

To Sid Finster,

The Northen Yemenis have almost never been subjugated to anyone. Attribute that the Queen of Sheba. The Yemenis of Aden (the South) were left to the British and Russians.

No one ever, in our epoch, ever over-came the Northern Yemenis. It will never happen. I have faith in their temerity.

#7 Comment By Annab On December 4, 2017 @ 2:16 pm

To Sid,

What I am getting at is that Saleh thought, naively, that he was placating the U.S. Yesterday, he tried to save his country from 15,000,00 dying from starvation. Today he is dead. So we will sit by and let 15,000,000 babies under the age of 16 die in Yemen? Duh duh duh…

#8 Comment By a spencer On December 4, 2017 @ 3:48 pm

Annab,

I think you’re replying to me and while I’ve known some great Sids, I am not Sid. Also, I agree with Sid. And you, I think?

Anyway, I know this dates back to FDR and Somoza, but until the US gets over a foreign policy of “yeah, he’s an SOB, but he’s our SOB”, its pretty hard to promote democracy under any auspices.

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 4, 2017 @ 8:31 pm

It never fails. Whenever some leader is in power somewhere of little concern to US interests. He or she is corrupt and therefore whatever befalls them is their own stead.

Good grief, I don’t know about you, but I have never run a country. I have not had to maneuver whatever my polity is around various kill zones – literally. I have until 2003 ever imagined that my political beliefs or faith and practice could interfere with my career or social goals.

And for all of our prognosticating leadership in Washington, neither have they. That level of danger in everyday life just does not exist here in the US. And given the level of corruption that has been engaged by our leaders in business and out, not to mention the death and mayhem that includes Yemen —

It might be wise to walk lightly when speaking of the moral lapses of our foreign neighbors merely because we can without consequence.

Unless of course you intend to put yourself at risk to handily toss out one of our own unscrupulous leaders or media mouth pieces for that matter.

I have to remain consistent — if I am going to challenge violence as a means of political change, it makes hard to applaud the choice to start a civil war.