Military and tribal leaders have thrown their weight behind the “youth protest” movement in Yemen after security forces fired on unarmed protesters earlier in the week:
As the country girded for the next stage of a deepening crisis, military units appeared to take sides in the capital, with the Republican Guard protecting the palace of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and soldiers from the First Armored Division under the defecting military commander, Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, protecting the throngs of protesters in Sana…
The defection of General Ahmar, who commands forces in the country’s northwest, was seen by many in Yemen as a turning point, and a possible sign that government leaders could be negotiating an exit for the president. But the defense minister, Brig. Gen. Muhammad Nasir Ahmad Ali, later said on television that the armed forces remained loyal to Mr. Saleh.
That suggested the possibility of a dangerous split in the military should Mr. Saleh, who dismissed his cabinet late Sunday night in the face of escalating opposition, decide to fight to preserve his 32-year rule. His son Ahmed commands the Republican Guard, and four nephews hold important security posts, and their ability to retain the loyalty of their troops in the face of ballooning opposition has yet to be tested…
At the same time, one of the country’s most important tribal leaders, Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, said Monday that he would join the country’s protest movement. He is the head of the Hashid tribal confederation, to which the president belongs, and his support for antigovernment demonstrations is another serious blow to Mr. Saleh.
“Yemen is not the property of Ali Saleh or the Hashids,” Sheik Ahmar told protesters in Sana as he endorsed their movement.
I don’t know what’s more surprising: How long it took for the Arabs to rise up against their assorted autocrats, or the breathtaking speed at which the whole thing seems to be un-spooling.
At least in the short term one thing appears to be likely: al Qaeda no longer needs Afghanistan as a home base.
They are all Afghanistan now.