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Saleh's Murder Unites Yemenis

Saleh's Murder Unites Yemenis

Tuesday, 5 December, 2017 - 09:45
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

Had President Ali Abdullah Saleh been killed five days ago, the Saudi-led coalition and the legitimate government would have been blamed for his murder.

But, Saleh was killed by the Houthis after he had terminated his alliance with them.

By killing Saleh, the Houthis have practically become rivals to all of Yemen’s components as Saleh was their only alleged patriotic card and their political front before the Yemenis and the world.

The war map in Yemen dramatically changed the night he appeared in a televised speech announcing his acceptance of the reconciliation, and his assassination will not stop the new change he imposed.

The question now is whether the late president can manage the battle from his grave by allying with the legitimate government and confronting the Houthis? In other words, will his influence, institutions, and men who have been loyal to him, his instructions and ideas as result of his forty years of influence, carry on?

What we know is that all attempts to abolish Saleh have failed in the past. Even after he was forced to quit as a result of popular protests, he continued to be a leader. Also, after the assassination attempt at al-Nahdayn mosque, everyone thought he was finished. He spent months in a military hospital in Riyadh for burn treatment.

Saleh surprised everyone after he returned, ruled Sanaa, and managed political and military battles. This is why Houthis finally decided to kill him; not to retaliate because he turned against them but because he’s capable of destroying their political project.

A few days ago, he altered the equation when he ended his alliance with the Houthis and cut the number of the legitimate government’s enemies to half, shrinking areas controlled by the armed insurgency.

Saleh abandoned the enemy camp and joined the allies camp which would have expedited Houthis’ defeat and ended the main war. But Saleh’s murder was meant to reshuffle the deck and stop the reconciliation project.

As long as we realize that Saleh's assassination is aimed at thwarting the reconciliation, we must work to ensure its success.

What the late president did in the last four days of his life is the most important development since the war began three years ago. It will boost operations against Houthis and besiege them in their areas north of Yemen, that is, of course, if Saleh army's commanders decided to participate in the fighting alongside ranks of the Yemeni army.

In the past few days, Saleh tried to liberate the capital, which has been occupied by the insurgents since 2014, when Houthis seized the headquarters of the First Division and the remaining military and security institutions were defeated without much resistance.

Questions today revolve around the size of Houthis’ power in Sanaa, with rumors claiming they are the strongest party and that any attempt to get them out would cause a bloody war between the two sides in the city's historic streets. It was difficult to figure out the truth but assassinating President Saleh proved that Houthis are an influential power.

In the past, Sanaa was Saleh’s stronghold and Houthis could only enter and occupy after his approval. But, ever since they entered the capital, they seized arms’ warehouses, bought loyalties and laid plans for the day when they clash with their ally Saleh, and perhaps assassinate him and take control of the capital.

The new reality is critical, dangerous, and requires Yemeni army and the coalition forces to enter Sanaa and work with Saleh’s forces that are in shock. The people of Sanaa and forces of late Saleh have a great interest in going to war to restore their city from Houthis.

In his televised speech, the late president called for lifting the siege, including resuming military and civil navigation in the airport for the first time since the beginning of the war and reopening crossings for aid convoys and trade activity. It is not possible to do so after Saleh’s assassination without entering into a new alliance with Saleh’s forces and deterring Houthis in Sanaa.

If the reconciled parties agree on managing Sanaa, it will be reconstructed faster and restore its role as the administrative capital of the country, after most governmental institutions had been moved to Aden as a temporary alternative capital.

People of Sanaa, leaders of the General People’s Congress and commanders of Saleh’s forces must realize the importance of change which Saleh adopted and was killed for. They must defend his decision and project.

What about the savage wolves, i.e. Houthis? They succeeded in getting rid of Saleh, their new enemy, and disrupting his plan. Yet, practically, they’re finished as decision makers in this big war.

Their hope to influence the shape of the governing political system is over. The Houthis went from being partners in governance to murderers of Saleh.

This is a crime they cannot justify, and by losing Saleh, they became nothing more than Iran’s militias against Yemenis.

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