How Ali Abdullah Saleh burnt his own son

Saleh sabotaged Yemen and threatened the Middle East’s security by pushing the Gulf to collide with Iran

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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The son of isolated Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been injured with more than half of his body suffering from burns. Despite this, Saleh – who is allied with the Houthis who support Iran – is the mastermind of the current mayhem in Yemen that erupted months ago. Saleh, the wounded fox, was betrayed by his own intelligence and hasn’t yet comprehended that he would no longer govern the country after thousands of Yemenis took to the streets demanding an end to his rule which lasted for about 40 years and had lost all legitimacy and credibility. Just like he himself was burnt by the revolution, he is now behind burning the political future of his eldest son Ahmad, whom he had planned protests for in Sanaa a week ago calling for Yemenis to appoint him as president.

What destroyed Saleh’s conspiratorial plan was the leaked details of the secret message which he previously sent via his son Ahmad to Saudi defense minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The letter was leaked after Saleh appeared on a Yemeni television channel after the Saudi-led coalition began to shell his forces. He claimed neutrality and patriotism saying he’s always stood by a political solution and that he and his family members have no power ambitions.

He appeared as a lamb before the Yemeni people claiming his innocence in any involvement in the coup and war, which he had in fact caused. His lies pushed Riyadh to leak the details of the secret message he sent via his son Ahmad to Prince Salman. Al Arabiya News Channel’s report aired details of how two days before the Saudi-led military attacks began, Saleh sent his son to negotiate a deal with the Saudis. The deal stipulated that he would be willing to stand by the Saudis and abandon his Houthi allies in exchange for a series of demands – which were all personal.

He demanded that the U.N. Security Council lift sanctions imposed on him, like ending the travel ban and unfreezing his assets in Yemeni and foreign banks and that his son be allowed to govern. The leak of the message aimed to clarify to the Yemeni people what Saleh truly is and what he wanted to bargained for. It also aimed to show that not meeting his personal demands was actually an act of blackmail in which he threatened to continue his alliance with the Houthis to take full control over Yemen and sabotage the transitional process sponsored by the Gulf states and the U.N. Saudi Arabia refused the deal and launched the military campaign.


Saleh as Yemen's fox

In the past, we described Saleh as Yemen’s fox. He described himself as “dancing on the heads of snakes” because he governed the country for decades via slyness and not via institutions. He’s done so until the Yemenis revolted against him in 2011. He did not accept to step down until he was forced to after he suffered burns in an explosion which targeted him in a mosque. When he returned from Saudi Arabia, the country that treated him, he conspired against it and allied with its Iranian rivals and their Houthi proxy and sought chaos of the domestic situation, sabotaging Yemen and threatening the Middle East’s security by pushing the Gulf to collide with Iran.

Saleh sabotaged Yemen and threatened the Middle East’s security by pushing the Gulf to collide with Iran

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Saleh’s slyness failed at tempting the Saudis with the deal he proposed as for years, Saudi Arabia has been well-aware that he’s a sly man. The Saudis decided that what’s best for them and for the Yemeni people is to go ahead with the reconciliation plan and with the political solution which the U.N. adopted because this would be the only guarantee for Yemenis and not just for Saleh and his son. This choice is also the best option for Saleh if the latter had wisely considered it. Engaging in the reconciliation for the sake of Yemen’s stability, instead of sabotaging it, would have made him a father-figure they can resort to and it would have also improved the future of his son Ahmad who could have been one of the possible leaders of the country.

The stupidity of this isolated fox destroyed his present and his son’s Ahmad future. He failed at calculating the Saudi reaction since the very start. His evil slyness led him to using the Houthis because he was confident that while he transfers power to himself and his son, they – like Hezbollah in Lebanon – can assassinate, destroy, invade and cancel out legitimacy without being deterred by anyone. However, he was surprised by the decisive Saudi policy and realized it’s smarter and wiser than he thought. Saleh bet that any foreign military act against him is almost impossible. He thought that Gulf-Gulf differences will lead any coalition to fail and that the Americans will reject any Saudi intervention to avoid upsetting the Iranians whom they (the Americans) are negotiating with in Switzerland on the nuclear program. Saleh was taken by surprise when realizing that Riyadh organized one of the best military, political and legal operations. “Decisive Storm” brought together the Qataris with the Emiratis on a military level and gained the support of the Egyptians and the Turks.

Saleh also saw how the Americans rushed to publicly support the campaign as the American president called Saudi King Salman to voice support of the campaign. The Americans also offered their intelligence and logistical services. The recent Arab League summit turned into a conference that greatly supports the campaign and the legitimacy of President Hadi who was celebrated as he represented Yemen at the summit and delivered a speech on behalf of the Yemeni people. All this happened while the fox Saleh is in hiding to escape the military operation against his forces and the tribes who are pursuing him to detain him and bring him to justice after he violated the vows of reconciliation and immunity guarantees.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Friday, March 30, 2015.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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