The media war of Yemen’s leaders

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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After being banned by three main Arabic news channels, former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh had to deliver his speech through Al-Mayadeen channel. Similarly, his partner in the insurgency, Abdul-Malak al-Houthi, leader of the Ansar Allah militia, was on Al-Massira channel. Legitimate President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi delivered a written speech to the Yemen News Agency.

That evening was part of the inter-Yemeni media war. Meanwhile, Hadi’s forces, and those of their Saudi and Emirati allies, have made huge gains in Aden, Marib, Taiz and the strategic Bab al-Mandab areas. They are now moving toward Jawf province. Houthi forces and Saleh militias are holed up in regions such as the capital Sanaa, which is ringed by mines in anticipation of the promised attack.

The media war reflects efforts by the conflicting parties to win support from the forces and tribes that are not yet involved in the war, or are willing to change allegiance.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Yemeni public opinion might not have significant influence on the war because the disputants have resorted to arms. However, they do seek to justify their positions, and the rebels are now in need of public support given their battlefield setbacks. The media war reflects efforts by the conflicting parties to win support from the forces and tribes that are not yet involved in the war, or are willing to change allegiance.

Saleh’s intransigence

After listening to Saleh’s interview, I am more convinced than ever that he is determined to fight until the end, contrary to recent rumors that he is willing to compromise by leaving Yemen. He has killed the closest people to him in order to consolidate his control. This is how he remained in power for 40 years, through his brutality and intelligence, not through the achievements of his government, whose sole task was to prevent challenges against him.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia knew that trying to support change in Yemen, or challenging Saleh’s rule, would be expensive and unsuccessful. That is why they did not interfere until the Arab Spring uprising in Yemen in 2011. These countries urged Saleh to resign and hand over power to the Yemeni people. He did not accept until he was nearly killed in an explosion.

Saleh will never accept the legitimacy of the current government, contrary to what he said on TV about making concessions in order to stop the war. He has always been known as a liar, so legitimate Yemeni forces and their allies will be forced to plan a longer and stronger war.

Saleh has ruined Yemen’s future. This is much worse than the harm he caused by his alliance with Houthi militias, and his subversion against the transitional government that was writing a new constitution and planning elections under U.N. supervision.

This two-year period was paving the way for a historic shift in Yemen, which would give the country the first real opportunity to build institutions that manage the state. The Yemeni people were eager to get out of poverty, ignorance and chaos.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat.

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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