Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Ali Abdullah Saleh

The Yemeni strongman has dominated his fractious, tribal country for the better part of three decades, but his grip on power slackened as the uprisings of the Arab Spring inflamed Yemen. He saw henchmen once under his thumb defect, powerful tribes once in his pocket turn against him and the U.S. — a longtime friend once happy to back Saleh as a proxy in the war against al-Qaeda — grow cold toward him. A rocket attack on his palace compound in June sent him fleeing to Saudi Arabia with grievous injuries. His return home later in the year didn't dampen calls for his resignation; months of clashes with tribal militia and heavy-handed attacks on peaceful protesters have led to hundreds of deaths. In November, Saleh announced his departure would come by February 2012, an agreement shepherded by envoys from a number of wary neighboring states. His exit poses myriad questions for impoverished, divided Yemen; most Yemenis have only lived under Saleh rule. But most will be happy to see the once invulnerable dictatorial finally out of office.