Yemen’s President Headed for a Long Spa Vacation?

Anti-government protestors shout slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa, on March 21, 2011 as top Yemeni tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahmar called for the departure from power of President Saleh, in a phone call with Al-Jazeera television. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI (Photo credit should read AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images) Photo: AHMAD GHARABLI/2011 AFP

In this ongoing Arab Spring, the deciding factor in the success or failure of each respective protest movement has often been the loyalty of military leaders. Do they take orders from the ruling regime and crush the rebellion, or join the opposition and leave powerless their despotic commander-in-chief? In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak's fate was sealed when the military announced it wouldn't fire on protesters in Tahrir Square, and in Libya, the country split in two when troops in some cities turned on Muammar Qaddafi. Either one could now serve as a precedent for what's happening in Yemen.

Earlier today, the AP reports, "army tanks and armored vehicles deployed in support of thousands protesting in the capital" after a number of high-ranking Yemeni generals announced their defection to The People. Apparently they weren't impressed by the slaughter of 52 innocent civilians by the government's rooftop snipers on Friday. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 33 years, has also lost the support of his own tribe and his entire cabinet, which he fired before they could reportedly stage a mass resignation. Tick tock, tick tock.

Yemeni army commanders defect to protesters [MSNBC]
Senior Yemeni Officers Back Protesters [NYT]