Powell Network Blog

March 19, 2011

Saddam’s playbook in Yemen

Dozens of pro-democracy protestors were killed in Sana on Friday when they were fired upon by pro-government forces perched on rooftops surrounding the area.  This represents a significant escalation of force from pro-government forces and President Saleh declared that his security forces were not involved in the violence.

This reminded me of a tactic supported by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.  According to this document (in Arabic, summary provided by the Iraq Memory Foundation), security forces should surround a demonstration and take up elevated locations, and then shoot demonstrators with an aim of killing 95% of them, leaving the remainder for interrogation.  Pretty brutal.

Given the current situation in Yemen and across the Middle East and North Africa, the decision (if it was a decision at all) to fire on demonstrators seems curious.  It’s doubtful that any present leader would look to the late Saddam Hussein for inspiration in subduing their population – despite his “success” at holding power.  The world’s eyes are on the Middle East right now and all actions are amplified and examined with great scrutiny.  It’s possible that Saleh and pro-government forces are taking their cue from Libyan leader Muamar Qaddafi since he seems to be hanging tough (for now).

Don Gomez is a Colin Powell Fellow alumni.  He graduated from City College with a BA in International Studies in 2010.  He is now attending the School of Oriental and African Studies pursuing an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies. Twitter: @dongomezjr

 

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