Iryani – The chemist the Yemenis lost

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Abdulrahman al-Rashed


By : Abdulrahman al-Rashed


The two most famous men in the history of modern Yemen are Ali Abdullah Saleh, the uneducated former president who attained governance via military power, and Dr Abdulkarim al-Iryani, the cultured diplomat who holds a PhD in biochemical genetics from the United States, and who hails from a prestigious family as his uncle was Yemen’s second president.

Just like in the movies, Saleh is the evil character who continues to destroy, fight and sabotage, while Iryani is the good man who, when war erupted in Yemen, exiled himself and lived in Cairo then Germany. Two days ago Iryani passed away in a hospital in Germany, while Saleh continues to wreak havoc in Yemen.

Iryani was one of the Yemeni politicians who strongly desired to end foreign tensions and enhance relations with the region’s countries

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Iryani has always been a significant figure in Yemen’s modern history. Since Saleh did not have the required competency to manage his diplomatic activities, he depended on Iryani’s patriotism, liberalism and vast knowledge.

Thwarting Saleh

Their relation was severed after the revolution against Saleh erupted. Politicians resorted to Iryani, who engineered the ideas for change in which Saleh gives up power, and a peaceful transitional plan is implemented to prepare for elections and a new constitution. Yemenis then resorted to Iryani after Saleh thwarted the transition plan. Iryani thus adopted a call demanding that Saleh respect the agreement and leave the General People’s Congress party.

However, reality does not resemble the fiction in movies. While Iryani was dying of heart complications in Berlin, Saleh hid in Yemen, rejecting any solution that stipulates conceding governance. Saleh has neither grown tired nor bored, and he is considered one of the longest-serving presidents in the world. All the destruction and bloodshed in Yemen is due to his holding on to power.

Saleh has for many years exploited all respectable men around him to defend himself when he is in trouble. When he was working on a border agreement with Yemen’s neighbor Saudi Arabia 15 years ago, he accused then-prime minister Iryani of refusing to establish good ties with Riyadh. Saleh prevented him from accompanying him to Saudi Arabia, hinting to Riyadh that he refused to include Iryani in the delegation because he was against the deal.

Years have now passed, and it turned out that Iryani was one of the Yemeni politicians who strongly desired to end foreign tensions and enhance relations with the region’s countries. Domestically, it was he who led north-south Yemeni reconciliation.

When the revolution erupted, Iryani engineered the famous agreement stipulating Saleh’s exit and the transfer of power to whoever the Yemeni people choose. The Gulf countries and the U.N. special envoy adopted the plan, and forced Saleh to sign it to avoid Yemeni clashes over succession. This is why Saleh incited against Iryani.

He thus exiled himself to Cairo, but politicians continued to turn to him for solutions to confront the stubbornness of Saleh and his Houthi allies. However, the wise man whom the Yemenis need is now gone.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.


Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in the Column section are their own and do not reflect RiyadhVision’s point-of-view.


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