U.S. officials knew about the Yemeni opposition deep discontent over their president at least two years ago, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
Hamid al-Ahmar, a wealthy Yemeni businessman, warned an unnamed U.S. embassy official in August 2009 that a massive movement to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh would erupt unless the ruler guaranteed free and fair parliamentary elections due in 2011.
The idea is controlled chaos, Ahmar said.
The cables suggested that Yemen’s opposition was inspired by the 1998 protests in Indonesia which deposed President Suharto.
According to media reports, U.S. officials had rejected warnings in 2009 and 2010 from prominent Yemenis that Saleh’s position was becoming untenable.
Moreover, in October 2009, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, warned US Ambassador James Smith that Saleh's “weak” government was in danger of collapse, and that such an event would be a nightmare for the Saudis.
Indeed, the US has long regarded Saleh as an important strategic ally against al-Qaeda terrorist groups in the region. However, in recent days Washington has quietly suggested that Saleh should relinquish his power.
In another diplomatic cable from May 2009 , the outgoing US ambassador to Oman Gary Grappo noted that government ministers spoke apocalyptically about Yemen's future.
According to the cable, during a visit with Saleh, a prominent Omani military official, General Ali bin Majid al-Maamar, was told that ruling Yemen was like standing on the edge of a pit full of snakes, to which the Omani said: Then, kill the snakes.”
Al-Maamari also told the US ambassador in another parley that month Yemen was on the brink of civil war.
Also, in October 2009, Qatar's Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani, told US Ambassador Joseph LeBaron that his nation was frightened by what could happen in Yemen.
Other cables indicate that European officials also knew that Saleh’s hold on power was weak and could present problems for the West,
Reportedly, a Dutch diplomat told American officials that Saleh was getting weaker and weaker and warned that the US should not cheer Saleh.