Is this really Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh?

Ten weeks ago, I wondered whether Ali Abdullah Saleh’s offer to resign in the face of endless protests might just be a trick to stall for time; four weeks ago, he left Yemen seeking medical care in Saudi Arabia after a bomb attack and I speculated that he would not return.  Never did I imagine seeing the specter that greeted Yemenis on state television last night, as a slow-speaking, burnt-skinned man purporting to be Saleh gave his first interview from Saudi Arabia since the bombing.  The Twitter chatter among Yemenis was whether, in the eight surgeries this man claimed to have had, one was with a plastic surgeon because even allowing for the burns and and other disfigurements this person looked very little like the Ali Abdullah Saleh they’ve known for over three decades.  But assuming it really was Saleh, the first thought is: wow, what a terrible torment for any person to have to suffer, even one as unloved as Saleh.  The second is: politically, he’s finished.  Presumably, this was not his intention by appearing on television but it is the fact of it — which is why many Yemenis have been dancing in the streets at the prospect the Saleh era is already over.

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