If you haven’t been catching up with the news recently, there’s a war in Yemen which started when a faction called the Houthis took the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and booted out the Yemen president, a guy called Hadi. There’s alsa a faction called the Southern Movement who want independence from Northern part of Yemen, and who may or may not be allied with Hadi, and now the Al-Qaeda franchise in Yemen has just started making gains, with ISIS starting a new branch, and Saudi Arabia and it’s buddies (including Uncle Sam) have started attacking attacking the Houthis, while Iran has allied with the Houthis, and they’re accusing each other of supporting the other side and….
Aaah, It’s like Game of Thrones, except with AKs instead of Dragons. And like Game of Thrones, Yemen has it’s Machiavellian character in the form of Abdullah Saleh, the former president of Yemen. And while it would be weird to see an Arabic dictator knocking it off in Medieval Westeros, he possess a lot of the characteristics that would make the likes of Littlefinger and Tyrion applaud.
His Beginnings were Humble
Varys was a homeless eunuch, Littlefinger was born in one of the smallest houses of the realm, Saleh was from a peasant family and had almost no formal education. It’s the popular rags to riches narrative, though given how they turned out it’s more like from nobody to nightmare. Varys and Littlefinger became the Master of Whisperers and Master of Coin respectively, and more powerful than their positions. Saleh moved up through the army and became the President of Yemen for more than three decades.
He looks Harmless
It’s not the nice-looking guy you have to watch for but the ones that look harmless. Tyrion’s a dwarf, Littlefinger’s a financier, and Varys is a fat eunuch, Arya could probably beat all three in a fight. However Arya is still a pawn in the scheme of the game while they are more like the Kings and Queens. Saleh being president, can’t hide behind his throne, however while he is a typical middle-eastern dictator, i.e. jailing political prisoners, nepotism etc. He’s typical. He’s almost unknown by the media in comparison to some of his contemporaries i.e. Kim Jong Un, Gaddafi, Hussein, Assad, who are giving coverage for their insanity and cruelty. As such Yemen has enjoyed reasonably okay relations with the rest of the world.
He knows when to fold’em
One of the most iconic prequel characters in Game of Thrones, the one who didn’t know when to quit was the Mad King who did whatever he wanted, until killed by a member of his own Kingsguard as his city burned, the smart players know when to fold’em. Gaddafi, Mubarak and Assad chose to fight to the bitter end. Gaddafi was killed by a mob, Mubarak is now in jail. The only reason why Assad is still president is because he’s like Prince Joffrey, not just stupid and crazy but because he is being propped up by greater men than him, just replace with Tywin with Putin (though someone should still just poison him). On the other hand, Saleh in the face of the Arab spring, resigned in exchange for immunity to prosecution. He could have spent the rest of his life living it up in his mansion in relative comfort.
He is a Chronic Backstabber
A honest title for Game of Thrones would be game of Backstabbing, so much backstabbing. Nearly every character has backstabbed or backstabbed another. The Feys and the Boltons backstabbed the Starks, Varys backstabbs everyone (he’s almost a chronic backstabber). Saleh didn’t need to take notes, he’s already a master. Case in point, the U.S. allied with him in his war against Al-Qaeda in Yemen, even ignoring his previous alliance with Saddam Hussein. However Al-Qaeda became an enemy of convenience, going as far to work with Al-Qaeda further his goals. His most current backstab was allying with the Houthis, his former enemies, against his former allies, Saudi Arabia. And if he should win, it’s likely he will betray the Houthis afterwards to be allies with the U.S. again.
He is Power Hungry
In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In every case it has been the pursuit of power that has pushed much of the series. Even the “good” characters such as Robb or Daenerys, are leaders in that their actions are about securing them more power. Characters still fight for other things such as Varys who wants what’s best for the realm, Tyrion just to survive. Tywin and Littlefinger understand their desire for power and wish to gain it. Saleh has already achieved it and is still achieving it. It would be surprising if Saleh ever took the mantle of president again, he already declared he wouldn’t. And the most powerful man in Westeros doesn’t wear the crown, it’s the man at his side. Littlefinger maybe a lord but he is still hasn’t reached his goal, Tywin has, but he is dead. Saleh is still alive and kicking.