Why It’s Too Soon to Celebrate in Yemen

  • Share
  • Read Later

The situation in Yemen took another dramatic turn this weekend, when President Ali Abdullah Saleh left Yemen for Saudi Arabia, sparking both joy and confusion on the streets. In this excellent Bloggingheads video Princeton’s Bernard Haykel and Charles Schmits of Towson University explain the roots of the conflict and mull the prospects for peace.

As Jeb Boone reports from Sana’a, despite Saleh’s departure, it may be too soon celebrate in Change Square:

For more than four months, the anti-regime demonstrators who occupied Change Square have weathered tear gas, high pressure water cannons, police batons, tasers and, in some cases, bullets flying from the barrels of AK-47’s or a mounted heavy machine gun. As the longest running protest movement in the Arab Spring, Yemenis were incredibly relieved to have finally had a breakthrough after enduring so much violence. No matter that what ultimately forced Saleh out of the country was an attack on his presidential compound, those who have called the square home were just happy that Saleh caved to their demands to “get out”.

But should they be so happy?  Military checkpoints still dot the city; and, more ominously, soldiers of the Central Security Forces, the only Yemeni military branch that has remained ostensibly loyal to President Saleh, still roam the streets. Under the command of Saleh’s eldest nephew Yahya, these men are known for their itchy trigger fingers. All along the city’s major thoroughfares, Yahya’s men stare intently at passing traffic, looking down the barrels of Russian heavy machine guns, mounted in the back of camouflage painted pickup trucks.

Indeed, the Saudi-brokered peace deal lasted but a day:

…The daylight celebrations were soon replaced by the uncertainties of night — and the breaching of the second ceasefire arranged by the Saudis in less than 24 hours. Soldiers under the command of Saleh’s son and nephew resumed artillery bombardments on tribal positions in Sana’a again on Sunday. For the 12th day in a row, Sana’a sleeps to the sound of consistent shelling.

Read the full story, here.