December 5, 2017


Saleh's Death in Yemen Sends a Message to Other Dictators (KRISHNADEV CALAMUR,  DEC 4, 2017, The Atlantic)

Saleh's apparent death, six years after Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was killed and his body paraded on the streets of his hometown of Sirte, will send a signal to strongmen around the world, most notably Syria's Bashar al-Assad. Assad is more firmly in control of Syria than at any point since the civil war began in March 2011. But his rule, despite military and diplomatic support from Russia and Iran, is fragile. Syria's Arab neighbors and Turkey all want him gone--as does the United States. As long as he remains in power, instability will almost certainly remain a feature of Syrian politics and life. But the fate of Saleh and Qaddafi before him is a powerful example of what dictators most fear--not just losing their power, but losing their lives. Assad could thus cling closer to his political benefactors in order to ensure he doesn't meet the same fate.

After Saddam Hussein, who was hanged in Iraq in 2006, and Qaddafi, Saleh is the third former Arab dictator to be killed following a regime change in the region. Other longtime Arab leaders, from Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, were also ousted in the Arab uprisings of 2011, but survived. Where leaders clung on to power in the face of protests, such as in Syria and Bahrain, civil war and political unrest, respectively, have become the norm. And the fates of Hussein and Qaddafi, in particular, are believed to preoccupy another incumbent dictator outside the Middle East: Regional experts say Kim Jong Un accelerated his nuclear and missile programs in part because both leaders, after giving up such programs, saw their regimes and their lives ended. They say he sees these weapons as an insurance policy against ending up like them.

Saleh never possessed weapons of mass destruction. But in the nearly four decades since he assumed the presidency in 1978 of what was then North Yemen, he consolidated his power and that of his family. At various points, he allied with Saudi Arabia, the United States in its war on terrorism, and Saddam. But as the Arab Spring swept through the region, his hold on power became tenuous. Protests against him grew, he barely survived an assassination attempt, and agreed in 2012 to hand over power to his deputy, Abd Rabbu-Mansour Hadi.

Things might have stayed that way had it not been for the Houthis.

Posted by at December 5, 2017 4:47 PM