The changes witnessed in the Arab world, particularly in countries that participated in the Arab Spring, could help Yemen to successfully conclude its transitional phase. These indicators may help Yemen move forward despite recent negative developments, especially regarding security issues and the war against al-Qaeda.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s recent decision to force top military officers to retire could significantly affect Yemen and new Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi himself. Morsi’s decision could influence the Yemeni president to issue a series of decisions to weaken rival forces that have impeded the transitional phase. Hadi may make decisions aimed at addressing the military conflict between the son of the former Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who defected from Saleh’s regime in March 2011.
While politicians have noted that these decisions were not easy, the majority of Yemenis believe they are in fact straightforward, and they expect Yemen to witness a period of relative calm and stability under the current conditions.
However, Hadi will not be the only one involved in the decision to dismiss military commanders Saleh and Ahmar. Regional and foreign parties would help him make this decision, one that he describes as “difficult” given its consequences and the expected reactions of both parties’ supporters.
Nevertheless, Morsi’s latest decision may allow Hadi to go ahead with a decree to dismiss both military commanders without the support of the international community. Many people feel that Morsi’s decision to dismiss Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, head of the military counsel and defense minister, is the biggest incentive that Hadi has to make this decision.
Analysts say that Hadi is not going to rush a presidential decision to dismiss Saleh and Ahmar. They stressed that it would be difficult to dismiss Ahmar, since he is needed during the transition phase. Morsi, who was also in need of Tantawi, solve the problem by dismissing him and then appointing him one of his advisers.
Following Morsi’s latest decision, Yemeni academics and youth have discussed Hadi’s ability to make a final bold move against Saleh and Ahmar. They are the top commanders in the Yemeni army, an army that has been divided over the protests ravaging the country earlier last year. This decision is likely to be welcomed by the vast majority of Yemenis, given that both commanders are viewed as obstacles that have limited Hadi’s ability to lead the country during the transitional phase and overcome a precarious period that may drag the country toward violence, chaos and civil war. These powers were granted to the president by the Yemeni people, under elections that took place according to the Gulf Initiative.
During protests demanding an end to the Saleh regime, youth debated the importance of a decision to remove army commanders from power. When speaking of commanders of the divided army, they are mostly refering to former President Saleh’s oldest son Ahmad Ali Abdallah Saleh and Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a 33-year ally of Saleh. Ahmar announced his defection from the Saleh regime during the protests that broke out against the former Yemeni president and subsequently forced him to step down.
Following Morsi’s decision, what steps is Hadi likely to take next? Will he dismiss the divided Yemeni army commanders, noting that both are fully committed to Hadi’s directives?