Will Saleh give up on Houthis?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

A media official in the team of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said that for the promised Houthi confrontation in Sanaa, they prepared “dozens of national anthems, enthusiastic songs about all governorates and over 1,600 poems that will celebrate this great event.”

By great event he means the protest which Saleh is planning to display his power before the Houthis, his partner in governance and ally in the coup. His media outlets have marketed the narrative that a dispute erupted between the two allies due to the Houthis’ dominance and interferences which reached areas under the control of his forces.

Saleh once bragged that with his political skills he can “dance on the heads of snakes” and his dispute with the Houthi might just as well be another dance. This is why there are great doubts regarding his dispute with the Houthis.

Everyone is waiting to see what will happen later. There is no denying there are disputes between the two allies as Houthi militias have gotten used to insult Saleh’s forces and seized many of their posts. This is in addition to political and financial disagreements.

If Saleh is honest he must present proof that he has exited the Houthis’ camp and that he is willing to reconcile and end the tragedy he started

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Deceptive moves

How do we know if Saleh really has a dispute with Houthis? We certainly cannot know that from protests or from the thousands of poems written. These are all deceptive.

The real disagreement between these two allies who staged a coup against legitimacy in Yemen can only be confirmed when fighting erupts between their forces. Statements and debates don’t tell us anything here. It is only when fighting erupts that we will be certain the scenario has changed.

The Saudi-led alliance which is fighting to restore Yemen from the rebels was in the past ready to do anything to see this Houthi-Saleh alliance end. However, today it does not have to make concessions to neither to see this happen. The fighting goes on and most lands are now under the alliance’s control while most battles are happening in areas controlled by rivals.

One of the main reasons behind this success is training and recruiting thousands of Yemenis fighters among the ranks of the legitimate forces. Qatar was behind disputes within the alliance and with its exit from it, the command is more harmonious.

The legitimate government

This does not make the task of liberating the rebel-held areas easier than before as Yemen may still be divided among three powers, the legitimate government, Houthi’s forces and Saleh’s forces until a political solution is reached.

Saleh is aware that the phrase “political solution” is most of the time in his favor because Iran, if it accepts a regional reconciliation, will request the Houthis, who are affiliated with it, to accept the solution.

This is assuming that a solution is possible. However in the worst case scenario, i.e. when each takes to a trench, the legitimate government will be the one to suffer the least as it controls half of Yemen and has enough to manage these areas’ affairs.

The situation in the other half of Yemen which is controlled by militias is very bad. These militias do not provide any services to the citizens there and obstruct them from handling their own affairs.

If Saleh is honest – the possibilities of which is rare – he must present proof that he has exited the Houthis’ camp and that he is willing to reconcile and end the tragedy he started.

This article is also available in Arabic.

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. He tweets @aalrashed.

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