I was browsing Yemen on google news today and I was floored by what I saw. Not a single news publication really has any idea about what the hell is going on in Yemen. As usual, the wires are all over the place, quoting “sources”. Quoting a “source” is so irresponsible it makes cringe and it doesn’t warrant its own news story. Here are some examples of today’s headlines.
Yemen’s Saleh not returning soon
Burned Saleh set to the return as unrest continues
Yemen power transfer ruled out
Saleh to hand power over to transition council
Wounded Yemeni president to return home within days
Saleh should stay in Saudi Arabia ‘for a while’ says doctor
Saleh to reappear as violence grips south
Saleh to make public appearance in 48 hours (these headlines were from 27 June)
In short, no one knows what the hell is happening in Yemen or in Saleh’s hospital bed. I can make a solid guess (its more than a guess really, some of this is sourced) that may be closer to the truth.
Saleh is not going to return to Yemen. If he does, its going to be too far in the future to bear significant weight on the political crisis. The important thing to remember about Saleh’s return is that it doesn’t really matter. As long as his son Ahmed and his nephew Yahya remain in the country, Ali Abdullah Saleh is still in power.
Protesters know this and last Friday called for them to leave the country. They won’t. If protesters want them out of power in Yemen, they’re going to have to kill them. Either that, or Saleh is going to tell them its over, give it up. If that seems likely to you then you have much more faith in humanity than I do.
What is happening in Yemen is a political game being played by Saleh and his rivals. As we saw him do with the GCC deal, he’s going to drag this out for as long as he possibly can. He was in the process of doing this before but someone tried to kill him.
Its also important to remember that this fight is personal for Saleh and his family. Ali, Ahmed, Yahya and the whole crew are waiting to take revenge on the Al-Ahmar family and Ali Mohsen. They can do this through political maneuvering or through war. Ahmed and Yahya think they can crush Ali Mohsen’s first armored division. They can’t. All you need to know about the Republican Guard is that a few weeks ago, tribesmen in Nahm trounced them.
So, in short, what the hell is happening in Yemen? It’s a waiting game. Unfortunately, Saleh and the boys seem to be unaware that Yemen’s economy is all but collapsed. The longer it takes to find a resolution, the worse it’s going to get. In any other country in the world, people would be killing each other at gas stations. Why that isn’t happening in Yemen is anyone’s guess. The Yemenis are an incredibly patient people but I don’t expect them to be patient for much longer.
And don’t forget, Ramadan is just around the corner. Ramadan is awful for the Yemeni economy to begin with and this Ramadan is going to be the worst. The only thing that can save Yemen’s economy is Saudi money – lots and lots of Saudi money – In the billions of dollars.
The protests are almost a non-issue at this point. Now, most average Yemenis could care less whether Saleh is the president or not, they want the economy back to normal. They’re right, the economy is a much more important issue at this point.
One Yemeni cab driver said it all to me the other night.
“Were you here during the Al-Hasaba war?” he asked me.
“Yes I was. It was an incredibly nervous time for Yemen,” I said.
“Yes, yes it was. Thank God its over. Its so strange, did you know that Saleh is also from bayt Al-Ahmar?” he asked me.
“Yes, I did and yes, its strange,” I replied.
“Yeah, I just hope the southerners are smart enough rebuild their country while the northerners fight it out. The two Al-Ahmar houses will be fighting long after the rest of us have starved to death.”