The main political lines in the four-month-old mobilisations to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh are becoming blurred.
The opposition front which has led protests in the capital, Sanaa, demanding Saleh steps down, is led by secular leftists, Baathists, Nasserites and Islamists. Saleh is too weak to use the kind of systematic violence currently employed by the Syrian regime, but his forces have resorted to bursts of killing — splintering his support and hardening the resolve of the young protesters.
Yemen’s neighbours have become increasingly alarmed at the chaos on their borders, and have attempted to broker an agreement in which Saleh would go in return for immunity. Predictably Saleh talked and manoeuvred, before scuppering the deal.
The political impasse has left space for tribal groups to fight a mini war in the capital against Saleh’s troops, and Islamists apparently aligned with al-Qaeda to take over the southern town of Zinjibar. The government has used planes to bomb Islamist positions in the south, an indication of the state’s weakness.
Over the weekend Saleh’s troops cleared a tent city in the central square of Tiaz, killing 20 opposition protesters.