Monday, June 06, 2011

What Next For Yemen As Saleh Continues Receiving Medical Treatment In Saudi Arabia

With Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh continuing to receive medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for the injuries sustained in the rocket attack on his compound, what exactly is next for this failed state that straddles important shipping lanes and has regularly played host to al Qaeda?

Celebrations broke out on streets when Yemenis learned that Saleh was out of the country, but Saleh's loyalists remain in control of the country. It would appear that Saleh's done as the Saudis and Americans aren't willing to allow Saleh back into Yemen.

Opposition groups are likely to fight among themselves
to capitalize on Saleh's absence, and while those groups want to see Saleh gone, what they want to do next is wildly divergent.
Yemen's main political opposition accepted a transfer of power to the country's vice president after President Ali Abdullah Saleh traveled to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment following an attack on his compound Friday. But it's unclear who will replace President Saleh more permanently if he doesn't return, and whether Vice President Abdul Rabu Mansoor Hadi will be accepted by the other groups vying for Saleh's ouster.

Saleh was injured Friday when opposition tribesmen shelled the presidential compound, targeting a mosque during Friday prayers. Saleh's forces and Yemeni tribesmen, who have engaged in pitched battles for nearly two weeks in the capital, continued fighting this weekend, the Washington Post reports, despite a truce brokered by Saudi Arabia.

The capital erupted in fireworks after his departure, which some saw as permanent, given his injuries and increasingly weak political position. But the government rebuffed the political opposition's call for the establishment of a temporary coalition government, saying that Saleh was still Yemen's president and would return to the country soon. In the interim, Vice President Abd al-Rabo Mansur al-Hadi was named as acting president.

RELATED: Yemen 101: Who's who in the country's unrest?

US ally Saudi Arabia is expected to block Saleh from returning to Yemen (with US support), the Washington Post reports, but neither the US nor Saudi Arabia likely has an answer for how to ensure a peaceful transition to a new government that will satisfy the secular youth-protest movement's demands for change, command respect from powerful tribes, and be capable of reining in Islamist militants, including an Al Qaeda franchise active in the south.
Saleh has been a some-time ally for the US, as he's been amenable to cracking down against Islamists and al Qaeda affiliates in the region, but it's come at a significant cost. It goes without saying that al Qaeda and other Islamists are likely to capitalize on the power vacuum.

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