Ali Abdullah Salih the Smooth Talking Trickster
Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Johnsen has written for a variety of publications on Yemen including, among others, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The Independent, The Boston Globe, and The National. He is the co-founder of Waq al-Waq: Islam and Insurgency in Yemen Blog. In 2009, he was a member of the USAID's conflict assessment team for Yemen.
Easily my favorite article of the day is this piece from the Financial Times by Anna Fifield, Roula Khalaf and Abigail Fielding-Smith.
The piece claims that President Ali Abdullah Salih tricked both the US and Saudi Arabia last week when he returned to Yemen, or in the words of one - unnamed, of course - US official, Salih "bolted the kingdom under the pretense of going to the airport for something else."
It stretches the imagination to believe that diplomats on either side are this foolish. Foolish enough to believe that Salih was going to airport for something, anything other than returning to Yemen.
The scenario, as related by the Financial Times:
Apparently, Salih told his kind hosts, those ever-understanding Saudi princes, that he actually wanted to go to the airport because he had decided to move to - wait for it - Ethiopia.
Yes, stuck in Saudi Arabia, which has never met a dictator it didn't want to host, Salih told them he wanted to leave Arabia and move to Africa. Say that out loud to yourself a couple of time and you will begin to understand how implausible the cover story is.
Something like a teenager convincing his parents he wants the keys on a Friday night to go grocery shopping for the family.
But as bad and as foolish as the Saudis come off in the piece, the US and the west fares even worse and, sadly, largely as the result of quotes from unnamed officials.
Of course, the official says, the US is not happy Salih returned to Yemen. But by the end of the article another western diplomat suggests that Salih's return might actually be a good thing because now that he is back there might be some interest in calming things down.
The question I have for this western diplomat is: how does he think Salih is going to go about calming things down?
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