Saleh Threatens Civil War

President Saleh of Yemen promised to leave office within the year. The last one to try offering that was Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

Aryeh Ben Hayim , | updated: 3:29 PM

Ali Abdullah Saleh
Ali Abdullah Saleh

Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh took another step down the Hosni Mubarak gangplank to political oblivion Tuesday afternoon when he promised to step down within the year. As may be recalled, Mubarak made a similar pledge prior to his final curtain call. He also threatened to wage a "bloody" civil war.

This was Saleh's reaction to the defection Monday of senior military commanders, including Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the commander of the First Armored Division. Saleh branded the actions of al-Ahmar and other officers who had thrown in their lot with the demonstrators a "mutiny and a coup against constitutional legitimacy."

Al-Ahmar had deployed tanks and armored vehicles around key positions in Sanaa, the capital, including the square that has been the scene of the anti-Saleh protests. The Republican Guards, a unit commanded by one of the president's sons, took up positions protecting the presidential palace. It remains to be seen whether this will be an isolated display of loyalty in the face of the massive defections from the president's camp by cabinet ministers, ambassadors and fellow tribesmen.

The anti-Saleh momentum was also fed from abroad. French Foreign Minister  Alain Juppé termed the president's resignation "unavoidable" and the US chastised him for employing violence against demonstrators. If, however, the president maintains the support of additional army units,  the scenario will diverge from the one in Egypt - where the army compelled Mubarak to step down - and the stage will be set for civil war.

Indeed, this is what Saleh threatened in a speech before army commanders: "Those who want to climb up to power through coups should know that this is out of the question. The homeland will not be stable, there will be a civil war, a bloody war. They should carefully consider this,"