A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Long Career and Ironic Death of ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Salih

‘Ali ‘Abdullah Salih became President of what was then North Yemen in 1978. Though he stepped aide as President of united Yemen in 2012, he remained a key player in the chaotic conflict in that country. In the course of nearly 40 years on center stage, he had survived assassination attempts, coups, and plots by his neighbors. Yesterday, after one last change of sides, his luck ran out.

Salih's longevity in a country with a history of short-lived leaders was unusual; he came from a relatively small tribe but always seemed to land on his feet. When he was being challenged by the Houthi movement, he originated the charge that the Houthis were Iranian-backed, though more recently he was allied with the Houthis, while Saudi Arabia has embraced the charge. This weekend Salih gambled: starting open battles with his Houthi allies while making overtures to Saudi Arabia. It was a daring maneuver, but this time Salih lost his gamble.

1 comment:

David Mack said...

Salih once said that governing Yemen was like dancing on the heads of snakes. Whatever one thinks of his lack of scruples, he was a genius of political tactics.