When reports first surfaced that Ali Abdullah Saleh had promised a new constitution within one year, our reaction was a non-reaction. The opposition, having been attacked only hours earlier, do not consider Yemen’s president innocent of yesterday’s violence. Saleh rules by whiplash and tomorrow may bring more disturbances. Nor has he delivered previous reforms as promised, a main reason why he now faces a democratic uprising.
He even panned his offer to pressure the opposition: "I'm already sure that this initiative won't be accepted by the opposition, but in order to do the right thing, I am offering this to the people and they will decide."
One opposition figure immediately rejected the proposal.
"This initiative is too late,” said spokesman Mohamed Qahtan. “The demands on the street go beyond that and are bigger than that.”
Equally unsurprising is the stubborn disconnect between Yemen’s events and Washington; threats of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) justify a counterproductive response that strengthens the group. Saleh’s offer came hours after Gerald Feierstein, U.S. ambassador to Yemen, ignored Wednesday's bloodshed while giving an interview to state media. Stumping for Saleh’s dialogue, Feierstein declares, “this is the only way forward to solve Yemen’s problems.”
Sounds like the Obama administration’s initial plan in Egypt - force an insincere, unwanted dialogue down the opposition’s throat. Because that will stop Yemen’s revolution. The White House's time and energy would be better utilized on a strategy for regime change.
America cannot land the wrong side of the people if and when Saleh collapses.