Mass Defections Leave Yemeni Regime in Standoff With Protesters

Tanks in the Streets of Sanaa as Commander of Armored Division Joins Protests

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh had already lost the support of much of the nation, including many powerful tribes, but he retained control over the army, which is flush with US military aid in recent years. That control too, has slipped.

Now several top military commanders, including Armored Division commander Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, have thrown their lot in with the protesters, and tanks are rolling in the streets of the capital city of Sanaa.

The tanks near Sanaa university, the epicenter of the protest movement, appear to all be loyal to Ahmar, and by extension the protesters. Other tanks, near the presidential palace, are said to be part of Saleh’s Republican Guards, which is commanded by Saleh’s son and is still under his control.

The violent crackdowns on the protests in recent days have swelled opposition to Saleh’s continued rule over the nation, and with not only the tribes but an estimated 60% of the military now firmly against him, many see Saleh’s ouster as “unavoidable.” Saleh has ruled for 32 years and seems intent on remaining in office at all costs, but whether he can regain any measure of support is highly doubtful.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.