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Yemen conflict deepens as dissident general's troops enter fray

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Settling old scores

It is unlikely that revolutionary fervor was the only thing that drove Mohsen to jump ship. By joining the opposition movement, Mohsen and other defectors from the regime are not so much heralding a new era for the Yemeni people as settling old scores.

For decades, Mohsen served as the regime’s iron fist, helping Saleh win a bloody civil war in 1994 against southern Yemen before crushing a series of rebellions by the Houthis, a rebellious Shiite-offshoot group in the north, in a campaign that displaced millions. Relations between the two took a turn for the worse a few years back when Mohsen became convinced that Saleh was secretly grooming his son Ahmed, also an army general, for the presidency.

A classified US embassy cable released by Wikileaks revealed how the Yemeni military told their Saudi counterparts to bomb a site in the northern region of Saada that turned out to be Mohsen's base. The extraordinary plot was foiled when the Saudi pilots, sensing something was wrong about the information they received from the Yemenis, aborted the air strike.

Since Saleh's return, Mohsen has shown no sign of softening his stance. Last week the wayward general lashed out at Saleh in a statement calling him a "sick, vengeful soul" and comparing him to the Roman emperor Nero, fiddling as his city burns.

The Ahmars

Another fear surrounding Saleh's sudden reappearance is that it may end up drawing Yemen's powerful tribal leaders back into fray. When Saleh was airlifted to Saudi Arabia in June, Sadeq Al-Ahmar, the grizzled-bearded sheikh heading Yemen's most influential tribe, the Hashid, swore "by God that he would never let Saleh rule again."

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