The potential for a clash between army and security forces in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa is escalating. According to Al Jazeera, Republican Guard troops have been deployed and are taking up defensive positions around the presidential palace. At the same time, an armored formation under an opposing commander is reportedly being deployed to the presidential palace. The Republican Guard is Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's first and last defense. The Republican Guard forces are commanded by Saleh's closest son, Ahmed, who also commands Yemen's special operations forces. The tanks deploying to the palace are doing so under the command of Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the president's half brother as well as commander of the northwestern military zone and 1st Armored Division — alternatively reported to be a brigade — in position on the outskirts of Sanaa. Al-Ahmar defected March 21 and deployed his forces to protect Yemeni protesters against security forces loyal to Saleh. A string of old guard members loyal to al-Ahmar then defected. Amid the escalating tensions, Saleh, who relies principally on his loyalists and closest relatives who dominate Yemen's security apparatus, still refuses to step down. He delivered a speech March 21 saying he is "patient" and has the support of the majority of the Yemeni people. The statement is likely to embolden the protesters, who are already reinvigorated by the growing support they have received from al-Ahmar's military allies, defectors from the ruling party and Hashid tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, who views the current uprising as his chance to assume political leadership over Yemen. A showdown between rival security forces is developing in Sanaa. STRATFOR will continue monitoring the situation closely.
Tensions Grow Between Yemeni Army, Security Forces