March 25, 2011
Saleh Tries To Hijack Revolution
Ali Abdullah Saleh has reversed his violent tactics with a slight of hand worthy of Vegas. Attempting to rip the revolution right out of his political opposition’s hands, Yemen’s embattled president hailed the youth - his “millions” of supporters - that turned out for Friday’s ‘Day of Departure.’
And he wasn’t talking about the counter-protests in his favor.
"These crowds, who reject the coup on the constitutional legitimacy, are a practical answer and a public referendum on the unity, freedom, democracy and legitimacy,” Saleh said of Friday’s ‘Day of Tolerance.’ “We, in the leadership, do not want power and do not need it, and we are willing to hand over power to safe hands, not to frivolous, sick, hateful and corrupt hands.”
Branding the wider opposition as criminals, Saleh accused the Houthis, Southern Movement, Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), and al-Qaeda of hijacking the youth’s revolution. He also reiterated his belief (supported by Washington) that oppositional demands should be addressed through dialogue rather than sit-ins, rallies, attacking military bases, or “sniping protesters to incite chaos.”
"The demands of the youths who have no political affiliations are welcome and I urge these youths to found their own political party to represent them," Saleh added.
Distrust between the youth and political opposition is real, mainly because of the JMP’s attempts to negotiate with Saleh in early March. His statements don’t add up to reality. The youth opposes him most of all, whereas his remaining support stems from traditional, older generations. And refusing ownership for last Friday’s massacre in Change Square, an event that sparked military and tribal defections, boosts Saleh’s delusion to a new level. Washington won’t even get the “investigation” it asked for.
Saleh’s argument that he’ll cede power to “safe hands” has a hollow center. “Order” stems from his self-interest, not Yemen’s interest. The outgoing ruler doesn’t choose the future government after a revolution, nor do people always know what comes next. Mystery never stopped American revolutionaries during an eight year war and the decade of political reorganization to follow. So why do Muslim revolutionaries suddenly need a plan anyway?
But Yemen’s 20-and-under crowd, half of the population, has offered their demands “for a peaceful revolution,” starting with Saleh and his family’s immediate departure. A transitional national council from “five respected figures,” including one military officer and at least several political representatives, would assume control for six months. A specialized committee would draft a new constitution based on parliamentary system, while the military reorganizes to “international standards” to ensure neutrality.
Trials and elections would complete Yemen’s revolution.
Saleh’s threats of civil war are so unfounded that these “criminals” have remained largely peaceful; government complaints of low-intensity violence fall on deaf ears in fourth-generation warfare. The youth and general opposition also formulated a reasonable plan, given the situation. And contrary to Saleh’s speech, political inclusion of the Houthis and SM is vital to Yemen’s stability, a policy that Washington must encourage. Excluding them from the political transition invites chaos and works against the very unity Saleh desperately invokes.
And far from playing a role in Yemen’s revolution, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has remained at a distance, using the opportunity to further its military advances. All it’s had to do is sit back and let Saleh fire on Yemenis, then run to the propaganda mill.
Few protesters will be fooled by Saleh’s latest “dialogue,” whether they simply distrust him or were insulted by him. Why Saleh or Washington expects them to bite is uncertain, but it probably has something to do with “needing power.” Although the White House and Pentagon might have “moved on” from Saleh, according to Western reports, they remain clueless of what to do next. Otherwise they would have done something different by now.
Whether Saleh violently spasms again or flees into the night like Mubarak, Yemen’s democratic uprising will sweep his regime into history. The Obama administration should think faster, because no one willingly negotiates with a thief who accuses others of thievery.