Foreign Policy Blogs

President Saleh to Return to Yemen?

President Saleh to Return to Yemen?

Just as the Saudi officials announced that President Ali Abdullah Saleh was being discharged and moved to a private residence in Riyadh, the most senior Yemeni spokesman, al-Ganadi, declared that the President would be returning home before the end of Ramadan.
Since Saleh failed to return to Sana’a on the anniversary of his appointment as President of the Republic of Yemen, many analysts and politicians alike started to question whether he was being held against his will, bullied into giving up his position at the head of the Yemeni state.
And if the government tried to reassure his citizens by claiming high and low that Saleh was only following the doctors’ orders, many still remained skeptical. “I believe that the Saudis are not letting him [President Saleh] leave, he loves power too much to let his health get in the way of coming back. He knows how much is putting on the line by staying away,” said Ahmed al-Sanabani, a pro- government supporter.

However, a prominent political analyst now believes that Ali Abdullah Saleh will after all be allowed to return to Yemen, as he is still the major ally in the region of oil giant Saudi Arabia and the United States of America.
Ali al-Ahmed, the director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs said on Sunday: “Right now the main powers with influence in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United States, are making this happen in order to have regime stability. Saleh’s return will send a message to the revolutionaries that they have no options but to surrender.”
Al-Ahmed added that he was convinced that an agreement had been made between Saleh and the GCC countries to not oppose his return and that Saleh would most probably, upon his arrival to Yemen, sign power over to his oldest son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Since the beginning of the Yemeni popular uprising, both the Americans and the Saudis have tried to stifle the revolutionaries’ aspirations for democracy and freedom, as they did not fit into their political agenda in the region. For the Saudis, it is a matter of political ideology; no democracy should be allowed to prosper so close to its shores. As for the Americans, Saleh still remains their best ally in their fight against al-Qaeda, especially since he will always prioritize their interests over those of his country.

However, both countries fail to recognize the military and political power of the tribes if they think that bringing back Ali Abdullah Saleh will suffice to quell the revolution. True, the number of in-house protesters has decreased over the past 2 months, especially since the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan; but it has more to do with the weather and the need for many to provide for their families than a sign of revolutionary fatigue.

Friday was quite a good example of this. In spite of exhaustion and the rain, thousands upon thousands of Yemenis voiced their determination to successfully carry their country into a new democratic phase, where autocracy will no longer exist. “We have endured the lack of electricity, the sticks and the threat…we are still here…until they go [the Saleh family] we will not leave,” said a youth activist in change Square.

But maybe most importantly, the tribes are still backing up the protesters. And if they are are still chanting “salmiya, salmiya” (which means peaceful), the tribes are singing to another tune.
Sheikh Sadeeq al-Ahmar has already declared, in the presence of more than 600 tribal leaders, that as long as he is alive, Saleh will never be allowed to set foot in Yemen. One would be foolish to dismiss such a pledge. Sheikh Sadeeq is not one to speak lightly. He bares, after all, the responsibility of speaking for the entire Hasheed confederation of tribes. Such a commitment on his part would have to be carried through or he would forever lose the respect of his men.

With the tension in the capital at an all time high, especially in the district of Hasaba, where already several clashes have erupted between the government forces and the tribes over the past few days, one can only imagine what would happen if Saleh were to announce his imminent return. Prince Sayyef, the Saudi Interior Minister and man in charge of the Yemeni dossier, only barely managed to stop general Mohsen from shelling the Presidential palace on Friday. Mohsen and al-Ahmar know all too well that with Saleh back in the picture their very lives would be in jeopardy. It is now either him or them…

No amount of diplomacy, political or financial pressure would ever stop those two of raging war against their nemesis, Saleh’s clan.



Catherine Shakdam

Although French by birth, my studies and my professional life led me to live for many years in the United Kingdom and in the Middle East.
Armed with a Master in Finance, a Bachelor degree in Psychology and 5 languages under my belt I managed to make my way through the maze of the Trading World of Wall Street, as an equity consultant. However, my interest for Politics and the Middle East gave me the necessary push to launch me as a "writer". Since then, I have voiced my opinions via my Blog and various publications such as the Middle East Post, the Guardian UK, and now Foreign Policy Association. I currently live in London.