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Yemen’s Saleh To Step Down? – OpEd


By Mohiyeddin Sajedi

Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh has recently said that he might relinquish power in the next few days. He added that he will delegate power to military and civilian individuals, and that he has no thirst for power.

The pronouncements have met with deep skepticism in Yemen by his supporters and the opposition alike. The Yemeni vice minister of information immediately corrected his president’s remarks and said that Abdullah Saleh would step down only after an agreement is reached over the power transition proposal, and this could take days, weeks or months.

The opposition says that the Yemeni president has a tendency for political maneuvering to kill time and wants to draw out the issue of power transition until 2013, that is when his presidential term expires.

The opposition mentions the fact that Ali Abdullah Saleh has three times so far come close to signing the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council proposition for power transition, but has refrained from doing so in the last minute.

The secretary general of the [P]GCC has so far travelled to Sana’a seven times to convince the supporters and opposition of Ali Abdullah Saleh of the latest changes in the council’s proposal, but has failed every single time. It is not only the president’s opposition who object to the proposal, but the president and those around him also harbor demands contradictory to this proposition.

Following his stealthy return to Sana’a, Saleh announced that he has delegated the responsibility of signing the [P]GCC proposition to his deputy after reaching an agreement with all the groups. He also appended a new section to this proposition and demanded that the municipality, parliamentary, and presidential elections be held simultaneously.

There is no sign pointing towards the proximity of the time for reaching a comprehensive internal agreement following which the Yemeni government might sign the [P]GCC proposition. In the months-long protests of the Yemeni people, there have been slogans condemning the meddling of Saudi Arabia in the internal affairs of this country through the [P]GCC.

The opposition cites Saleh’s efforts to attract the attention of foreign powers and to portray himself as a peace-seeking figure rather than someone who is standing up to the international will as his motive for his announcement to step down.

The issue of the Yemeni crisis is to be broached at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The US backs the [P]GCC plan for power transfer in the country. Saleh’s opponents back the presentation of the issue at the UNSC as they believe that the measure enables Yemen’s exit from the current stagnant situation.

The US ambassador to Sana’a has again sprung into action over the past days. The opposition is concerned that the power transfer constitutes the entrustment of the authority with Saleh’s son Ahmed, who heads Yemen’s presidential guard and has played an important role in cracking down on and suppressing the protesters. The opponents say Saleh’s resignation forms only one part of their demands, with a more important part being their insistence that the power is not dispensed to his family or aides.

The Yemeni crisis has evolved into an international issue. Awarding Tawakel Karman with the Nobel Peace Prize mounts the pressure on Saleh. He has understood that he cannot manage the domestic crisis by waging a political game with the regional powers as all the people of the world now pay attention to the Yemeni issue. The very international attention could have been among the driving forces behind his recent announcement of resignation.

After killing Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration recently marked its second victory over al-Qaeda by assassinating Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the terrorist group’s leaders in the Arabian Peninsula, on the Yemeni soil. This was done by unmanned drones. It is not clear yet where these drones took off from. It is said that the Yemeni government has put a base under the control of the US army or CIA.

This is important for the United States that the power is transferred to someone that keeps that base, and the military cooperation between Washington and Sana’a goes on.

The managed transfer of power in Yemen is a joint plan by the Unites States and Saudi Arabia. There may be some differences in the modus operandi. Saudi Arabia does not want Saleh to be overthrown by a popular revolution, because it is afraid of the consequences of Saleh’s fall in the Saudi internal affairs; besides, Saudi Arabia is generally opposed to any Arab revolution.

Meanwhile, the United States does not want the transfer of power in Yemen to take place in a way that threatens US interests in the region. The main interests of the Yemeni people have been caught in the middle of a conflict of interests between the United States and Saudi Arabia, but any transfer of power in Yemen will lead to many changes in the country in the future. Managing the transfer of power does not guarantee that the future will be harnessed.

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