This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 06/06/2011
Last Monday, a week ago exactly, I wrote an article entitled 'The Yemeni President before the audio recording.' Today we are entering the post-audio recording stage as President Ali Abdullah Saleh was subjected to an assassination attempt which he escaped miraculously and after which he left Yemen for Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. So was this Saleh's final exit?
All possibilities are viable; perhaps Saleh's departure to Saudi Arabia to receive medical treatment is the beginning of a breakthrough for the Yemeni crisis or perhaps it will cause the crisis to escalate further especially as violent clashes have broken out in Sanaa. The attack on the Yemeni president in the mosque of the presidential palace during Friday prayers tells us a great deal; firstly it means that there is, without doubt, a rift among security circles close to the president as it was evident that the operation against Saleh was very meticulous with regards to timing and location i.e. the rows in which President Saleh and other leading figures were standing.
Secondly, all of that means that Saleh's rule has practically come to an end because as long as the presidential palace is being shelled and government buildings are being occupied – not to mention the ongoing demonstrations that have continued for months now – how much legitimacy does the ruling regime in Yemen have left? Therefore, with the departure of President Saleh to receive medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, Yemen may have entered a new, critical phase that will either represent a breakthrough or the moment of explosion that everybody feared.
Today, it is expected that matters will be settled in Sanaa by occupying the presidential palace and declaring the end of Saleh's rule officially, especially as divisions have appeared among his men following the assassination attempt on his life, or we will see an outbreak of clashes over power in Yemen, and only God knows what the repercussions of this would be. This is where the danger lies and this is what we hope will not happen.
There could be a third possibility; perhaps the departure of President Saleh from Sanaa to receive medical treatment in Saudi Arabia is just a step that has been taken after which Saleh will announce that he is renouncing power for medical reasons and that he is handing over power to one of the government figures close to him. These are all just possibilities of course but what is certain is that we are now facing a real turning point in the course of events; it might be the beginning of the end or we might be dealing with the opening of the gates of hell in Yemen, God forbid. What is also certain today is that we are facing the departure of a third Arab president after he released an audio recording like Gaddafi and Mubarak and Saddam Hussein before them and it is unfortunate when the situation for presidents reaches this stage, as it would have been more appropriate to prevent bloodshed and avoid the destruction one's nation. The departure of the third Arab president also means that we are facing a decisive stage that could change the level of tension in the region; if a peaceful transition of power is achieved in Yemen, and Gaddafi is deposed in Libya, which is now imminent, then there is no doubt that the time will come for Syria's Assad regime.
Therefore it seems that the Yemeni recording will be the most influential in the Arab political market in the region just like a best-selling record!