Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh was flown to Saudi Arabia for treatment after an assassination attempt that left several leading figures in the regime seriously wounded. Vice president Abdo Rabbo Hadi is acting as president during Saleh’s absence. Saleh’s relatives, including his son, are understood to be in control of the security situation in the country.
Shortly after Saleh departed, a ceasefire was agreed between the regime and the powerful Hashed tribe, who have fallen out with Saleh and were fighting government forces in the streets of Sanaa.
There were conflicting reports about the seriousness of his condition, with some claiming that he is in grave condition, whilst others saying he is in “excellent condition”. Saleh has not appeared in public since the assassination.
Meanwhile, Islamic militants, understood to be members of AQAP, have strengthened their control of various areas in the former South, including the capital of the Abyan province, Zinjibar. It is understood that hundreds of army soldiers and militants have been killed in on going battles.
June 3-15, 2011
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
The departure of Saleh from Yemen represents an opportunity for the country to emerge from the crisis. Relatives of Saleh are still in control of much of the security forces and continue to control key parts of the country and capital. It is understood that the tribal opposition, led by Hashed tribe, do not wish to see Saleh return to Yemen, but have agreed to a ceasefire whilst he is out of the country.
Almost two weeks after his departure from Yemen, Saleh’s spokesmen continue to insist that he will return after recovering from his injuries. This is certainly a possibility, but he will unlikely be able to return without the permission of Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are increasingly concerned that with Saleh out of Yemen, the security situation in the country will continue deteriorating, as indeed has been happening in the south with the spectacular rise of AQAP. A stronger AQAP is particularly worrying not only for Yemen, but for the stability of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC.
Although Saleh is less likely to return as president than not, there may indeed be a compromise between the tribal opposition, Saudi Arabia and Saleh to return him temporarily to a much reduced role. This will not likely satisfy the protestors and may not resolve the continuing mass demonstrations in the country.
The overall situation in the country appears more fluid than it has ever been, with AQAP-sympathizers taking over strategic locations of the country. As the situation remains unresolved, further breakdown of the rule of law and the control of the central government is likely, making the road to the return to normality more complicated.