Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat- A U.S. expert on Yemeni affairs believes that the President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s transfer to Saudi Arabia, for treatment after being injured in an armed attack, “opens the door for his final departure”, adding that “it looks like this is the end of [President] Saleh”.
Christopher Boucek, a specialist in Yemeni affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “President Saleh’s departure opens the door for a possible way out of this crisis. Now it is possible for the Yemeni Vice President (Abdel Rabbo Mansur Hadi) to assume an interim leadership position there, and then begin preparations to hold free and fair general elections”. Boucek added “however, an interim government must be formed with the consent of all parties concerned, to oversee the transition process”. He went on to say “first things first, the fighting must stop”.
Boucek said “on the other hand, with the departure of Saleh to Saudi Arabia, there is a possibility that the situation will deteriorate even more, and fighting will escalate. It seems clear that the Yemeni government will not stop the attacks on the al-Ahmar [tribe], and this would be very bad”. He said “at present we do not know where Ahmed (son of President Saleh) is. We also do not know where his cousins are, and it will also be important to monitor General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar (the commander of the First Armored Division, who has defected to the opposition)”.
Boucek added “the most important thing now is to begin the process of political transition, and begin to work in order to improve the general situation in the country for all Yemenis. It’s no secret that the economy is in ruins, and there is a need to focus on addressing this fundamental challenge. Yemen’s declining economy is at the heart of all the problems in the country”.
He said “I have been following Saleh all these years. I know he is a smart politician, and anything can happen. But I do not know how he will be able to return to power after what happened.”
Observers in Washington said that President Barack Obama believes that Saleh’s transfer to Saudi Arabia may get Obama out of a predicament he did not know how to escape from, because he repeatedly declared that Saleh must leave, yet at the same time he did not want to lose an important ally in the war against terrorism. On the other side, [other observers argue] that the abrupt departure of a key ally of Obama in the war against terrorism will inevitably lead to a deepening of the crisis in the country. Obama knows that the Yemeni economic situation is bad, and now it will become even worse.
Observers claimed that Obama feels indebted to the Gulf Cooperation Council because of its important role in the process, not only in terms of mediation between President Saleh and opponents in the past, but also because of the recent Saudi role, which led to the transfer of President Saleh to Saudi Arabia for treatment.
An official at the White House revealed that John Brennan, President Obama’s advisor for national security, spoke by telephone with the Yemeni Vice President Abdel Rabbo Mansur Hadi, after President Saleh was transferred to Saudi Arabia, yet the official did not provide any further details. The official added that Brennan discussed the crisis in Yemen with officials in Saudi Arabia, and officials in the United Arab Emirates, during a three day visit before returning to Washington on Saturday.