Long-time Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in Saudi Arabia for several months recovering from an assassination attempt, returned to Sanaa today despite several reports that was never coming back.
The return surprised everybody, including the United States, who was trying along with Saudi Arabia to broker a transition to replace Saleh with his deputy, Major General Hadi. When the US last spoke with Yemeni officials, they did not mention the possibility. They again demanded Saleh transfer power to Hadi, but given what the “surprise” return says about their lack of influence on Yemen, it seems this is now unlikely.
In addition to leaving the transition deal in doubt, it also appears to leave what little remained of the peace process toward pro-democracy protesters in tatters, with opposition leaders predicting that Saleh’s return would lead to a full scale civil war in the capital, much as there was before Saleh fled.
Violence in the northern part of the capital seems to be on the upswing again, with attacks on Sheikh al-Ahmar’s forces in the region leaving 18 killed and 56 others wounded. Locals reported shelling in the area.