Monday, March 21, 2011

Defection of half brother of the president, may be bad omen for Yemen's opposition

Ali Mohsen Saleh, half brother of the president
Brigadier Ali Mohsen Saleh al-Ahmar has joined the protests in Yemen and deployed troops in Sanaa in order to 'protect the protesters' as he said. Brigadier Saleh is a half brother of president Saleh. He commands the north western military zone and is the head of the first armoured division. He was followed by two other generals.  The defection of these generals follows a stream of resignations of personalities from official positions.  Earlier president Saleh already lost the support of sheikh Hamid Al-Ahmar, leader of the  important tribal confederation of the Hashed, which by the way is Saleh's own tribe.

But while the defection of Ali Mohsen Saleh is another a sign that the regime is crumbling, it might complicate the already complicated Yemeni political situation even further, as Ali Mohsen is not only a close relative of the president, but also someone who has long been seen as a rival who was seeking power in his place. It rises even th possibility that secret deals hav been made between general Al Mohsen and others, possibly the family Al-Ahmar, the leaders of the Hashed tribe. 

This is what was written about the rivalry between Ali Mohsen Saleh and Ali Abdallah Saleh and his son Ahmed Ali Saleh in 2009:
Yemen Tribune SANAA, 09 Oct — The independent weekly newspaper, Almasder Thursday published an article written by Hussein al-Laswas on the relations between President Saleh and his half brother, General Ali Muhsen. “It was Ali Muhsen who assisted Saleh to come to power when he besieged the capital back in the seventies and hence furnished the way for Saleh’s coup d’état to succeed … Ali Muhsen who was once Yemen’s most powerful general was capable of toppling Saleh after the civil war of 1994 when his popularity among the soldiers, the Islamists and the Saudis was at its top, but he remained loyal to Saleh. Trust between the two has waned after Ali Muhsen failed in the fifth round of war with the Huthis and Saleh opted to remove him from the sixth round of war … both men have palaces and huge bank accounts and both see Yemen as their own personal property … Saleh has been trying to liberate the capital from the grip of Muhsen’s battalions and when the sixth round of war with the Shiite rebels erupted, Saleh and his son, Ahmad found a historical opportunity to make the change and spread the control of the republican guards over Sanaa.

While General Ali Muhsen was busy in the battlefield during the first and second wars with the Huthi insurgents, Saleh and his son were busy marginalizing him. Ali Muhsen escaped eight assassination attempts so far and he is now left with nothing but a few fragile battalions whose loyalty to him is doubtful and the republican guards along with battalions from the central forces have taken over in several governorates … Ali Muhsen ended from being the commander in chief leading wars against the Huthis to merely a military commander in al-Malahid region who receives orders. But Ali Mushen is a still a power to reckon with.

And the Yemen Tribune on 7 November of the same year:

Ahmed Ali Saleh, the son of president Saleh
Tribal leader and business tycoon, Sheik Hamid Abdullah al-Ahmar late Friday accused the Republican Guards of supporting the Shiite rebels in previous wars. He said “the Yemeni army is no longer capable of ending the war in north Yemen militarily because it lost trust in the political leadership in Yemen which plays around with peoples’ lives.” Al-Ahmar who was speaking to the Doha-based al-Jazeera satellite TV channel said “the Republican Guards headed by the President’s son supported the Shiite rebels in north Yemen in order to hit the First Artillery military division led by Brigadier General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar and hence get rid of him,” adding “a rebel leader is a friend of the President’s son, Ahmad Ali Abdullah Saleh.” (my italics,tp) Ali Mohsen is President Saleh’s half brother and al-Ahmar talked about “internal conflict between the various wings inside the army about the war in Sadaa,” and called on President Saleh to visit Abyan or Sadaa “in order to prove to us that he is still the President of all of Yemen,” adding “the President no longer has a state to rule.” “The state no longer exists except in the Presidential Palace and in the capital, Sanaa which is protected by 60 thousand troops,” Al-Ahmar said, adding “dialogue is the only hope to bring Yemen out of this situation,” stressing “dialogue with everyone is still possible to resolve the current crisis in Yemen.” He accused President Saleh of “wanting to turn the country into a monarchy through his pursuit to install his son in power,” and renewed his call for the President to step down, stressing “changing the head is the door to reforming the situations in Yemen.”

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