July 12, 2011

Center For American Progress Attacks Yemen’s Revolution

In meeting with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh over the weekend, John Brennan committed the same fundamental errors of his June visit to Riyadh. First, sending a military official to mediate Yemen’s revolution disregards diplomacy and all of its symbolism; the White House’s counter-terror chief explicitly stamped U.S.-Yemeni relations as one-dimensional militarism. Second, Brennan reiterated America’s support for the Gulf Cooperation Council’s “power transfer,” an initiative designed by Washington and Riyadh to preserve Saleh’s regime.

Negotiated over their heads by the oppositional Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), Yemen’s revolutionaries widely reject the GCC’s initiative as U.S.-Saudi interference.

After Brenna's second failed trip, one may be tempted to ask what all of America’s civilian diplomats are doing at the moment. Is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only capable of addressing one revolution at a time? Obviously not since she takes turns bashing Syria's Bashir al-Assad and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. Unfortunately solving the first problem won’t solve the second - see Jeffrey Feltman’s recent visit to Sana’a - if Clinton is considered the “answer.” Today the Center For American Progress hailed the Secretary as just that, suggesting a visit to Sana’a could “break the deadlock” between Saleh’s regime and the JMP.

Armed with this theory, the Center then proceeded to unleash a systematic propaganda assault on Yemen’s revolution. An institutional bias for Clinton and the Obama administration is on full display throughout its recommendations. Standing on a flawed policy to begin with, the Center cites a June report that advocated the GCC initiative - with minor tweaks - as Yemen’s “last and best chance” to “save” itself.

“The GCC deal is currently the only plan for a peaceful political resolution to the conflict on the table, and while realities on the ground have changed since Saleh’s last rejection, it provides a decent framework for an end to the crisis. The first step of the agreement, the nominal transfer of executive authority to Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has already occurred, albeit under different circumstances than envisioned in the deal. Opposition leaders have stated they will accept Hadi as a transition leader, and he has the potential to play a very positive role in Yemen’s move to a post-Saleh government, yet the true power of the Yemeni state in Saleh’s absence remains with the leadership of the security services.”

While the suggestion to cease military support for Saleh’s security forces is valid, the Center would “allow the protesters to continue demonstrating” in return for Saleh and his family’s immunity. “The United States has little capacity to force political change in Yemen,” the Center concludes, only to arbitrate justice for 33 years of repression. Yemen’s revolutionaries believe they have the right to justice and to demonstrate, not one or the other. Similarly, the Center’s proposed financial package ignores Egypt’s resistance to foreign strings; although Yemen's revolutionaries need the cash, they are unlikely to be bought off by the West and Saudi Arabia's war-chest.

Finally, popular coalitions such as the Coordinating Council for the Youth Revolution of Change (CCYRC) and Civic Coalition of Revolutionary Youth (CCRY) have proposed alternative solutions to complete Yemen’s revolution. Washington and Riyadh have ignored these proposals as they run counter to their interests in Saleh’s regime.

“This is ridiculous and it’s not worth it,” Abdul Hafez Noman, a leader of the opposition Ba’ath party, said of Brennan's support for the GCC initiative. “Yemen’s going from bad to worse and we are given the same old line by the Americans. It’s been six months of revolution, how are we to believe that he would ever agree to step down now?”

For credibility and psychological purposes, the Center acknowledges why Brennan sends the wrong message: “Yemeni state television spun the meeting as a sign of the Obama administration’s commitment to stand behind the Saleh government. Add that to the recent news that the United States is increasing its use of drones to strike AQAP and it’s no wonder that the Yemeni opposition and broader public are feeling somewhat abandoned by the Obama administration.”

Try total abandonment.

The Center grossly underestimates rising anti-Americanism due to the White House’s non-response: “it is perceived with some justification as only caring about Yemen because of terrorism and not about Yemenis.” This belief is fully justified as fact, disconnecting the Center’s answers from reality: “the Obama administration can break out of the dynamic that casts America in a negative light with the Yemeni people. It is time for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Agency for International Development Administrator Raj Shah to go to Yemen and take on a greater public role in building support for Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi as the leader of a political transition and boosting awareness of American support for the Yemeni people.”

Political deadlock does exist between Saleh’s General People Congress (GPC) and the JMP, but an overriding deadlock has been encouraged by Washington and Riyadh, who are assisting Yemen’s regime in blocking the revolution's proposed transitional council. Supporting Hadi backs the continuation of Saleh’s regime by default. Washington has already spent a month and a half declaring Hadi as the “acting” president, when Saleh still refuses to quit and his son and nephews continue to injure and kill peaceful protesters. The Center acknowledges, “The main challenge at this phase in the transition is that Hadi does not have his own base of power or support and Saleh’s son and nephew still control the security services.”

The Center then blatantly lies, “In fact, the opposition in Yemen openly supports Hadi as the transition’s leader.” While the JMP views the southerner as a neutral candidate for transferring power, Hadi enjoys only nominal support at the popular level. Yemen’s revolutionaries demand that Saleh and Hadi both transfer power to a transitional council of their choosing. They, not Washington, must approve of Hadi's stewardship towards an election. America must build support for the street coalitions - this course is Clinton’s only legitimate option.

“A visit by the top American diplomat would strengthen Hadi and rectify misconceptions about who the United States supports,” writes the Center. “Soon after Hosni Mubarak resigned amidst popular protests, Secretary Clinton visited Egypt to convey support for the newly emerging democracy in the highest-level visit by the United States since protests in Cairo began. This visit gave legitimacy to U.S. calls for support of the protesters. A similar symbolic act in Yemen will likely have equally positive effects.”

Apparently the Center isn't monitoring Egypt’s distrust of U.S. support, or Yemen's for that matter. Were Clinton to personally back Hadi and the GPC, she would be vilified for legitimizing Saleh’s regime and obstructing the revolution’s conclusion. The Center assumes that Clinton’s standing can keep her afloat in a hostile environment, however the Secretary has acquired an unpopular reputation for working with Saleh’s regime. Clinton rarely addresses Yemen in general, leaving her ice cold to the revolution, and her Department hasn’t mentioned the country since June 29th.

And with Clinton declaring Syria’s regime as dispensable, backing Hadi and the GPC would also signal that Saleh’s is still indispensable. Contradictory diplomacy would complicate, rather than simply, both of these situations. Instead of trying to hit a home run with one pitch, President Barack Obama’s preferred method of foreign decisions, U.S. policy needs to activate on a daily basis in Yemen.

Ultimately the Center presents a political settlement that has been denounced by Yemen’s revolutionaries. Its “solutions” water down their demands under the guise of a “peaceful and orderly transition.” Its bias for the Clintons attempts to sell a dirty deal as favorable to Yemen’s people. Sending a civilian official to Sana'a is irrelevant if they continue to push a militaristic policy. Like its patron (the Obama administration), the Center For American Progress is nothing but a propaganda spewing machine with little interest in Yemen’s people.

No comments:

Post a Comment