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Yemen Future Wrapped In Uncertainty – OpEd

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By Mohyieddin Sajedi

Is Yemen heading towards a civil war? The staunch Ali Abdullah Saleh opposition, at least, harbors no such intention.

However, as things go in this impoverished Arab state, there seems no other way ahead for it than this destructive war.

Weapons are ornaments to men in Yemen and any grown-up in Yemen carries a knife. The tribal texture and fear from rival tribes necessitates the availability of enough fiery weapons to all. This country has already disintegrated once, has repeatedly witnessed fatal wars among its two parts and has lived through various coups. A new war does not mean the definite unbalancing of internal power relation; however it will prove very costly.

Most of the wars have so far been waged by the state forces or opposition coup-mongers and the people of this country have so far demonstrated an admirable peace-seeking spirit from themselves.

Contrary to demonstrators in Libya or Syria, the Abdullah Saleh opposition has so far lodged no request for foreign military support or the establishment of a no-fly zone. Their only request from abroad is that Ali Abdullah Saleh be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court for committing war crimes.

Abdullah Saleh opposition has thus far always insisted on the civilian and peaceful nature of its protests. The attacks of the government forces on the opposition, including Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, the chief of the Hashed tribe, on which the presidency is dependent, did not meet a retaliatory attack. Some members of the army have defected, but they do not show any serious armed response to the shelling attacks of the government forces.

A few days ago, in the crisis spot of Taiz, it was announced that the opposition had succeeded in “liberating” some locations from the hands of the government forces. The Sana International Airport is no safe place. The downing of a number of military planes there could not have possibly been due to shooting by Abdullah Saleh opposition. Previously, there were rumors that some Syrian pilots, who had come to Sana to assist the Yemeni army, were killed in an attack. In the tumultuous atmosphere of Yemen, rumors are fabricated and circulated apace.

People’s uprising in Yemen started before Libya. The two sides, however, have reached a state of equilibrium and everybody is looking forward to a new development which may break the existing deadlock. That development will most probably come from the outside. Any internal development will only lead to civil war; it would be a war between rival forces in the army as well as competing tribes and even inside every tribe.

Apart from the plan offered by the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, foreign powers have done nothing. Even the UN Security Council has simply called on Ali Abdullah Saleh in its resolution to step down, though stipulating that the call is “not binding.”

Slogans chanted by the opposition in street demonstrations and names chosen for Friday gatherings are telltale. Perhaps, they are not so meaningful to those who are not familiar with the Islamic culture. For example, the last Friday was called “The rule only belongs to God.” Before being an allusion to the necessity of implementing the Islamic Sharia, it was a clear sign of Yemenis disagreement with the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council’s plan and the Security Council’s resolution.

Interestingly, Ali Abdullah Saleh has accepted the resolution and has given his vice president absolute power to endorse the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council’s plan. He has so far refrained three times from endorsing the plan himself. The Yemeni president maintains that transfer of power should be concurrent with parliamentary election. Saleh says he and his family should be immune from judicial prosecution after ceding power and that immunity should be guaranteed by international community, the United States, and the European Union.

Faced with the question as why the West is not doing the same in Yemen as it did in Libya under the pretext of “protecting the people,” some analysts argue that “Yemen has no oil and no prosperous economic future is foreseen for the country.” However, the role of Saudi Arabia should not be ignored. Leaders in Riyadh and Washington have agreed that any change in Yemen should not arise from a popular uprising, but should be well-calculated.

The influence of al-Qaeda in Yemen is not the sole concern for the United States. Washington is also very concerned about repetition of Yemen’s uprising in Saudi Arabia. Social and religious situation is similar in both countries.

As Yemeni men and women are determining their fate, the new Saudi crown prince is just appointed with no regard for people’s votes. Both Riyadh and Washington are willing for transfer of power in Yemen to take place in such a way that their interests would not be harmed, but will be further met in a future Yemen.

As long as they have not made sure about this, Saleh will not come under any major pressure from outside the country.

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