MESOP NEWS INTEL SPECIAL : The Death of a Gulf Strongman

–      Four High ranking US Intel Sources

Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was reported killed yesterday by his former allies. Saleh had switched sides over the weekend, dropping the Iran-supported Houthi rebels in favor of talks with the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, in hopes of negotiating an end to the long-running civil war.

What impact will the death of Saleh, a critical figure in Yemeni tribal politics, have on the country’s ongoing civil war and humanitarian crisis?

We asked four experts to weigh in:

  • Norm Roule, former National Intelligence Manager for Iran, ODNI: “In the wake of Saleh’s death, the conflict in Yemen will sadly continue…The Saudis will remain focused on the threat of Iran’s influence over Yemen, specifically, Iran’s provision of missile technology to the Houthis, and the prospect of long-term Iranian presence on their southern border…”
  • Amb. Steve Seche, former U.S. Ambassor to Yemen: “In the long run, one can hope this might have a salutary effect, if for no other reason than it disturbs the dreadful stasis that seems to have settled over the war, as the combatants dig in further, even while they continue to profit handsomely from the war economy that has grown up in recent years. But that may be just wishful thinking.”
  • Emile Nakhleh, former Director, Strategic Political Islam Analysis Program, CIA: “Before his ouster, Saleh often claimed, mostly falsely, to America counter-terrorism officials that he was fighting al-Qaida. But, in fact, he was cooperating with the terrorist group as long as the terrorists were opposed to the secessionist movement in the south…we’ve often underestimated his obsession with his own survival.”
  • Rob Richer, former Associate Deputy Director of Operations, CIA: “He was a thug, he had his own issues. His family was corrupt…but he was in fact the best avenue we had, that the Saudis had, into stopping the horrible war which is going on inside Yemen.”

Read more analysis on Saleh’s death by these four experts.