The former Houthi ally had unexpectedly declared late last week that he'd be ready to open a new page with the international coalition — who he termed his "neighborly brothers" — in exchange for them ending the blockade, halting the bombing, and entering into a ceasefire. This statement was perceived as a sudden switch of allegiance by the Houthis, whose forces were already clashing with Saleh's just days before his announcement in an unclear incident sparked by control over the capital's largest mosque, and it incensed them to no end.
The Battle of Sanaa seemed to have been over before it began, however, since not even Saleh's request for Saudi air support could succeed in turning the tide against the Houthis, who ended up capturing the capital and driving the former President out of it. It was somewhere in the outskirts of Sanaa that Saleh was killed and video footage of his corpse was virally released onto social media, causing an instantaneous outburst of heated reactions. The Houthis celebrated his death and claimed that he brought it upon himself by "betraying" their cause, while Saleh's supporters lamented their opponents' disastrous mishandling of what could have in hindsight been Yemen's only real chance for peace.
The most impoverished Arab country is facing an imminent humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions as famine threatens most of the population and a cholera outbreak is rapidly approaching one million cases. The civil war that first began in 2014 and developed into an international one a year later has been hampering the delivery of aid to the beleaguered population, and some observers are of the opinion that a cold peace is better than a hot war under these tragic circumstances. The Houthis have been demanding the withdrawal of all international forces from their country, while the coalition isn't comfortable allowing the group to rule in northern Yemen. Saleh could have helped spearhead a compromise and face-saving solution for all parties, but now that he's dead, all of that's left to the realm of speculation.
Whichever way one looks at it, his killing was a decisive event in the country's complex war, with the question being whether it was ultimately a "good" development or a bad one.
Prof. Dr. Bischara Ali Egal, Chief Executive Director of the Horn of Africa Center for Strategic and International Studies (http://www.horncsis.org), and Stig Jarle Hansen, Professor in International Relations, University of Life Science (NMBU), Oslo, Norway, joined our discussion.
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