In much the same way Hosni Mubarak (former president of Egypt) constantly and consistently made the argument that he was the only thing standing between Egypt and a radical Islamic takeover of the country, President Ali Abdullah Salih of Yemen is arguing that he is the only thing preventing Yemen from sliding into chaos.
Outsiders without much experience in Yemen, who look at the country, may wonder how anyone could believe him, after all Yemen has an on-again, off-again civil war in the north, a vibrant al-Qaeda franchise, and increasingly active secessionist movement in the south. Not to mention a horrible economy, a lack of jobs, and, well the list goes on and on and on. And on. (nothing like beating a dead horse.)
But of course (and I’ve been accused of taking a Malthusian tone towards Yemen) things could always be worse. And in Yemen, they could be a lot worse.
It is important to remember that is not just an argument – Salih or chaos – that the president is making to western powers, this is also something he is saying in Arabic and trying to convince tribal leaders and other dignitaries of the truth of his claim. We’ll see if they’re buying what he is selling.