The Yemeni General Who Turned Against President Saleh

More

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled the country for 32 years, pledged today that he will step down by January 2012 after organizing congress elections. But, following months of protests, the opposition is not satisfied with this proposal, demanding his immediate departure. Most of Saleh's cabinet has resigned or been dismissed and, on Monday, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Saleh's half brother, pledged allegiance to the rebel movement. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed concern that the unrest could strengthen Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based terrorist group.

In 2003, Robert D. Kaplan traveled to Yemen and found that the war on terrorism was forcing the U.S. to involve itself with Yemeni tribal politics. He wrote in The Atlantic that, at the time, the country averaged four firearms per person and that their availability threatened to transform the small-scale tribal fighting into a debilitating anarchy. As Gates did this week, Kaplan highlighted how Yemen played a central roll in the destiny of Arabia and Al Qaeda.

Kaplan had this to say about the relationship between Saleh and al-Ahmar:

Saleh has reduced the risk to himself by pulling closer to Ali Muhsen Saleh Al-Ahmar, his half brother through his mother and the brigadier general of an armored division that protects the capital. The general is reputed to be a buttoned-down, capable organizer who is close to the fundamentalist Islah movement, to radical gun-running sheikhs, and even to some in al Qaeda; one expert in Yemen even speculates that Ali Muhsen knew in advance of the attack on the USS Cole. The American pressure following September 11 was so severe, however, that both Ali Muhsen and Saleh felt they had no choice but to accommodate President Bush for the time being. In turn, the Americans have made a deal with this former "bad guy": it is said that giving his regiment a chunk of the American military-aid package is the price of doing business here. After Saleh, Ali Muhsen--not the chief of the military staff or the Prime Minister--may well be the most important person in Yemen. His ties with the radicals will be crucial for Saleh should the latter ever need to distance himself swiftly and credibly from Washington.

Read the full story at The Atlantic.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Miriam Krule writes for and produces The Atlantic's International channel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Global

Just In