September 15, 2011

U.S. Drops "New" Bombshell on Yemen

The Obama administration still has a long way to fall during Yemen’s revolution. Visibly feeling the criticism of its policy but unwilling to admit it, the State Department released a late-afternoon statement that now represents the future of U.S. policy. Delivered by the wrong messenger - Ali Abdullah Saleh likely has no idea who Victoria Nuland is - the administration's latest statement would be comical if not for Yemen’s severe loss of life and collective punishment.
“The United States has seen encouraging signs in recent days from the government and the opposition in Yemen suggesting a renewed willingness to implement a political transition, to include the Vice President signing the GCC-brokered agreement on behalf of President Saleh. The United States believes that three elements that have been agreed by the parties are critical to the successful implementation of the GCC Initiative: 1) Formation of a Government of National Unity; 2) Agreement to hold early Presidential elections by the end of calendar year 2011; and 3) Creation of a High Committee to oversee the country’s security and military affairs during the period leading to early elections. The United States believes that these remaining tasks can and should be accomplished quickly and it hopes that an agreement is reached and the signing of the GCC Initiative takes place within one week.

The United States continues to support a peaceful and orderly transition that is responsive to the Yemeni people’s aspirations for peace, prosperity, and security. We remain concerned about reports of continued violence. We call on the Yemeni government to protect peaceful protestors, refrain from violence, and bring those responsible for violence to justice.”
Starting from the top and bottom, the State Department contradicts Saleh’s “encouraging signs” with “concerns about reports of continued violence.” The latter phrase waters down massive human rights abuses and urban sieges with stunning simplicity. Furthermore, why is the administration receiving its information from “reports?” With U.S. personnel on the ground and cooperating with the government, the administration is aware of widespread abuses from direct experience. Dozens of Yemenis have been killed and wounded in the three days since the UNHRC condemned Saleh’s regime.

His personal security forces have no intention of protecting peaceful protesters.

As for the administration's support for a deeply unpopular GCC initiative, none of its three conditions are “responsive to the Yemeni people’s aspirations for peace, prosperity, and security.” The revolution will not accept a “unity government” with the old regime. Its various components also need more time to organize than three months, and the revolutionaries have no desire to leave military and security forces in the hands of an imposed “High Committee.”

The U.S. “plan” is Egypt redux, and leaves out the elephant in the room - military support and immunity for Saleh, his son Ahmed, nephew Yayha, half-brother Ali Saleh El Ahmar and other relatives accused of ordering human rights abuses.

Then comes the most unrealistic point of all: “The United States believes that these remaining tasks can and should be accomplished quickly and it hopes that an agreement is reached and the signing of the GCC Initiative takes place within one week.” This sentence contains a number of inaccuracies. First, Saleh hasn’t signed the GCC’s initiative in five months and retained the “right” to veto the agreement, so the administration will have to put a gun to his head in one week. No such pressure is looming, judging by the State Department’s weak statement, and Saleh will likely continue to stall given that Washington is so “encouraged” by his behavior.

Ruling indefinitely from Riyadh is another possibility.

One week also picks a seemingly arbitrary date to sign the GCC’s proposal, although the immediacy would conform to the opposition's demands. The original draft offered Saleh 30 days to resign, and his General People’s Congress (GPC) later amended the proposal to 90 days. The UN’s “roadmap” supposedly granted him six months. However the administration will have trouble convincing the JMP - or National Council - to agree without Saleh’s immediate resignation.

The micro point is that the GCC’s terms remain ambiguous towards Saleh’s resignation, immunity and the election’s time-line, further eroding popular confidence. The macro point is that neither the revolutionaries or Saleh himself is likely to agree to the GCC’s terms. Until further notice, the Obama administration and House of Saud are the only powers backing the proposal 100%.

Their only concern is a “peaceful and orderly transition” in Yemen - a client state, in other words.

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