x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Saleh camp risks political suicide

Yemen's former leader and his supporters risk political oblivion if they continue to challenge the authority of Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

Brigadier Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, left, the eldest son of the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and commander of the Republican Guard, talks to a guest in Sanaa in January.
Brigadier Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, left, the eldest son of the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and commander of the Republican Guard, talks to a guest in Sanaa in January.

SANAA// Yemen's former leader and his supporters risk political oblivion if they continue to challenge the authority of the current president, Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, analysts said this week.

This month, Mr Hadi sacked 20 military officers and four governors loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president. All but the ex-president's half-brother and his nephew have obeyed Mr Hadi's order to leave their posts.

The ex-president has continued to condone, if not applaud, the defiance of his two relatives - Mohammed Saleh Al Ahmer, the commander of Yemen's air force, and Tariq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, the commander of the presidential guards. He has hardened the stand-off by declaring publicly that he and officials of the ruling General People's Congress should have been consulted on the matter.

During a graduation ceremony for some Sanaa University students at his house on Saturday, Mr Saleh also accused his successor of what he called a "biased" implementation of the power-transfer deal that led to his handing over the presidency to Mr Hadi in February.

Political observers here have said that the former president has severely miscalculated the extent of public support for his criticisms of the current government.

Abdulghani Al Iryani, a freelance researcher, said Mr Saleh and his allies were courting "political and military suicide" if they continued trying to stoke opposition to the sitting president.

Other observers said Mr Saleh and his supporters had drawn the wrong conclusion from the willingness of the international community to tolerate the former president's presence in Sanaa. Initially, Mr Saleh said he planned to live abroad after turning over power.

This forbearance should not be construed as a sign of support for Mr Saleh's return to power or as a licence to destabilise Mr Hadi's government, said Abdulbaki Shamsan, a professor of political sociology at Sanaa University.

Mr Saleh and his allies "have no more legitimacy", he said. "Any action they take will be considered a rebellion."

Jamal Benomar, the United Nations special envoy to Yemen, arrived in the Yemeni capital last week in a bid to defuse tensions between current and former members of the government.

Mr Benomar reiterated international support for Mr Hadi, and according to an official who attended the meeting, warned Mr Saleh face-to-face that sanctions would be imposed on his nephew and his half-brother if they did not end their defiance and step down.

He also told Mr Saleh that his son Ahmed, who commands the Republican Guard, would be held accountable for deploying troops to defend his uncle, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Gerald Feierstein, the United States ambassador to Yemen, said on Sunday that while Washington hoped the stand-off would be settled peacefully, it was also prepared to take unspecified measures to ensure that Mr Hadi's decisions are implemented.

"We would consider any idea or step that might help address this issue, and everything is on the table," Mr Feierstein told reporters.

"We are concerned that people who just a few months ago were insisting on the needs and requirement of respecting the constitutional legitimacy are now refusing to accept constitutional legitimacy," Mr Feierstein said.

If anything, Mr Hadi had benefited politically from the dispute, Mr Al Iryani said. "The Saleh faction has served Hadi by challenging his authority in this hopeless way. He has emerged as a credible and stronger president," he said.

malqadhi@thenational.ae

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