OP-ED

Yemen’s Snake Dancer is Dancing Again

Fakhri al-Arashi

Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh once likened his 33-year rule of Yemen as “dancing on the heads of snakes.” Despite of being out of power since early 2012, this characterization remains true. The recent UN sanctions on the strongman have returned him to his old games.

The people of Yemen are more scared than before of Saleh’s reaction to the sanctions. He isn’t the kind of person who would take such actions easily. He will work to topple his political opponents. From the point of view of many, Saleh has started the first phase of his political game by dismissing President Hadi and Dr. AbdulKarim al-Eryani, after GPC accusations of them solicited sanctions. Again, Saleh has called on his ministers to withdraw from Bahah’s government, aiming to disrupt the political scene.

All Yemenis, including businessmen, politicians, and diplomats are quite anxious these days. This comes from the GPC’s response to the UN decision to penalise Saleh for allegedly obstructing the political process. The GPC claimed the penalties were “strange”, insisting that the former strongman “stepped down peacefully” for the sake of a political compromise.

“As of Fall 2012, Ali Abdullah Saleh had reportedly become one of the primary supporters of the Houthi rebellion. Saleh was behind the attempts to cause chaos throughout Yemen,” the United States said in a statement. Because of the sanctions, Saleh and al-Houthi militants may turn the country upside down. They may cause a civil war, and Saleh has nothing to lose after the sanctions’ announcement, which begins with a travel ban and freezing assets. The sanctions may work to target Saleh or he may be able to form a military council to lead the country. Saleh will not be able to do this by himself or in public view. He will have to recruit new followers or use al-Qeada, old friends of his, to do the job on his behalf. It looks sad and dogmatic, but that is why Saleh was known as a snake dancer, and that is why God saved his live after the mosque attack in June 2011. Maybe the fate of the dancer is worse than he thinks. May God protect Yemen from politicians and the snake dancer.