After the State Department’s Mark Toner dodged the odds of sanctions against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Obama administration still wants us to know the possibility exists. According to several sources within the administration, one option currently under debate would levy “unspecified sanctions” from the UN Security Council.
“We’re taking one day at a time, but we’re not at this point relying on a change of heart on the part of Saleh,” the administration official said. “We need to now reevaluate with our partners the next step we can take that will try to resolve this.”
These leaks contradict recent statements from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her department, which expressed disappointment over Saleh’s actions but remained open to him signing the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) power transfer. The White House wants to have it both ways in Yemen, trusting Saleh to the very end while claiming it isn’t deceived by him.
More importantly, the time for reevaluation started before the revolution began. At least earlier than now, regardless of how time is measured. And most importantly, getting Saleh to sign isn't the primary problem. Washington is essentially threatening to withhold its own funds until he signs a favorable GCC agreement. This "power transfer" is the real problem. The Obama administration must cut U.S. support and walk away from the GCC’s proposal, which will extend Yemen's crisis and is consequently rejected by the popular opposition.
The Washington Post notes several other inconsistencies that heap additional suspicion on the White House’s claims. One senior official remarks, “I don’t believe that AQAP has been anywhere near the forefront of this political movement... But if the military and the security services fracture, AQAP is going to be the one that benefits.”
AQAP isn’t anywhere near the forefront of the political movement - no belief necessary. This statement appears to back Saleh’s exit, lest his security system “fractures” - until it sounds AQAP’s alarm. The revolution doesn’t need back-handed “support” like this. The administration also claims to be tracking military units involved in the political fighting on both sides “to ensure that U.S.-trained counterterrorism units and U.S.-provided equipment have not been involved in the domestic battles.”
“So far, there’s not been a bleed-over,” said one official, contrary to accounts from Yemen.
This new claim targets the widespread perception that America is complicit in Saleh’s crackdown; levying sanctions will be impractical on Washington’s end if it implicates itself. In any event the U.S. government doesn’t have the credibility to issue this promise, especially in such a casual manner. Its trust gap is nearly as wide as Saleh’s after supporting him this deep into the revolution.
Once diplomats had been rescued from the UAE embassy, “Saleh stood chatting amiably with U.S. Ambassador Gerald M. Feierstein as his party leaders signed the agreement,” He then refused to sign himself. Clinton would express her “outrage” on Sunday night, and the State Department would put the GCC’s proposal back in his hands on Monday. Naturally, U.S. officials insisted on Monday night that they don’t expect a reversal.
This information isn’t twisted without reason. At least we can count on their reversals, along with Saleh’s.
Rather than unconditionally side with the revolution, the Obama administration remains ignorant of fourth-generation warfare. Continuing to rely on the safety of “private diplomacy” to escape the glare of public diplomacy, U.S. officials would rather leak the possibility of sanctions rather than address them upfront. They aren’t talking because America is an accomplice to Saleh’s crimes.
Saleh’s resistance is futile and so is Washington's denial.