Yemen’s ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh used to claim boastfully that ruling Yemen is “like dancing on the heads of snakes.” He bragged about being skilled at playing this game and unilaterally ruling Yemen for decades. This was the equation that an “elected” president relied on to rule a “democratic” republic for 33 years. Finally Saleh refused to run for a new term in office, instead pushing his loyalists in parliament to nominate him for a lifetime presidency. Saleh’s plan was to reign over Yemen forever. Or at least, that was his plan until he was ousted by the Yemeni people. Saleh exploited his powers to get rid of his opponents. While he also betrayed his friends. Therefore, it would be no surprise for Saleh, who betrayed his own people, to go one further and betray the whole world.
Saleh not only allied himself with Satan itself but with his former Houthi opponents with whom he fought six wars. Saleh’s shift of alliance was surprising to everyone, something which demonstrated that he is less concerned about Yemen’s national interests and more concerned with returning to power. He is fighting side by side with his past enemy: the Houthis. Together with the Houthis he has turned against the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative that could rescue him, fighting Yemen’s legitimate President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and splitting Yemen’s ranks in an unprecedented manner. Despite his clear cooperation with the Houthis, Saleh continues to deny that any such alliance exists in the first place.
Saleh’s machinations—which is something that he excelled at throughout his time in power—did not cease even after he was subject to an assassination attempt that saw him being badly burnt and was subsequently removed from power. He has even allied with Iran, who opposed him throughout his rule, allowing Tehran to infiltrate his country. His recent call for dialogue in the UAE, which he knows will not be met, is meant to drive a wedge between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. He issued the call to give the impression that he and the UAE are meeting behind the scenes. As his militias were shelling the cities of Yemen, Saleh recently said to Egypt’s Al-Watan newspaper: “We hold a neutral position and seek a peaceful solution.”
A February 2014 United Nations report revealed the truth behind Saleh’s dangerous alliances, or shall we say his dance on the heads of snakes? When the 2011 revolutions of the Arab Spring threatened his rule and as he felt his presidential term was drawing to a close, he struck a deal with Al-Qaeda, allowing it to control South Yemen, in a bid to persuade the West that it was necessary to keep him in power. His alliance with the terrorist Houthi militia is not much different from this deal with Al-Qaeda. Saleh does not care if Yemen is to be consumed by the Al-Qaeda inferno or controlled by Iran. Nor does he care about what Yemenis will get out of his endless plots and ploys. He only cares about one thing: Returning to power even if it cost the blood of all Yemenis.
By allying himself with the Houthis, Saleh has performed a new, dangerous dance. An alliance with the Shi’ite group and Iran means that the ousted president has crossed all red lines, and consequently plunged the entire region, not just his country, into a vortex of uncertainty. Does he believe that he will be able to “dance on the heads of snakes” once more and emerge victorious from this chaos? Perhaps. Or perhaps this will be Saleh, and the Houthis, final dance.