Exiled son of Yemen's Saleh takes up anti-Houthi cause

Alicia Farmer
December 6, 2017

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that the killing of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh would, in the short term, likely worsen an already dire humanitarian situation in the country.

Yemen's civil war, pitting the Iran-allied Houthis who control Sana'a against a Saudi-led military alliance backing a government based in the south, has led to one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, with the United Nations warning of a potential starvation that could threaten the lives of millions.

The United Nations says millions of people may die in one of the worst famines of modern times, caused by warring parties blocking food supplies. Much depends on the future allegiances of his loyalists.

Sanaa is now the scene of heavy fighting between the Houthis and forces loyal to Saleh.

The Arabian peninsula's poorest country, Yemen is one of the most violent fronts in a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have also backed opposing sides in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere across the Middle East.

A Saudi-led coalition, which has been at war with the rebels since March 2015, threw its support behind Saleh and launched a blistering wave of airstrikes on Sanaa.

Dr. Hadi al-Yami, the former chairman of the Arab Human Rights Committee, said that current events in Yemen clearly illustrate suffering.

Saleh's death deepens the complexity of the multi-sided war.

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Saleh , who ruled in Sanaa from 1978-2012, had a wide following in Yemen, including army officers and armed tribal leaders who once served under him.

Yemen's capital was quiet on Tuesday after five days of fighting and overnight strikes.

On Monday, Huthis killed Saleh, a former ally, and moved to consolidate their grip on Sanaa Tuesday after a night of heavy air strikes.

Few local media reports have stated Houthi rebels had gained control of the majority of the country's capital from Saleh's forces.

On Saturday, Saleh offered to "turn a new page" with the Saudi-led coalition if it stopped attacking Yemen and ended its crippling blockade of the country.

But his legacy is mixed.

Mattis, speaking with reporters on a military aircraft en route to Washington that his death could either push the conflict towards United Nations peace negotiations or make it an "even more vicious war".

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