September 18, 2011

U.S.-KSA Encourages Yemen’s Bloodshed

Today’s massacre in Sana’a has cast great sorrow over Yemen’s revolutionaries. At least 24 protesters were killed and over 100 wounded when security forces and government loyalists ambushed a march near the General Authority of Electricity. A blackout quickly ensued.

Yet the human spirit is naturally galvanized by hardship, and “Kentucky Round” has already been renamed “Round of Victory.” The largest demonstrations to date are being planned for Monday - some Yemenis believe that tomorrow could be a decisive day in the revolution.

As usual Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime immediately denied responsibility for the coordinated attack on peaceful protesters. A ruling party official told Xinhua, "when the protesters arrived at the end of Al-Zira'aa Street, many of them stormed the government building of the General Authority of Electricity and set it on fire while the security forces interfered to protect the government facility." Saba state media separately accused Yemen’s political opposition of "hiring armed tribesmen to attack the government facilities and forces."

A security source from the Interior Ministry blamed the 1st Armored Brigade, commanded by defected General Ali Mohsen, for throwing molotov bombs at a power station behind the Old University. Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood was also accused of "unlicensed protests" and firebombing the power station.

However Xinhua quotes eye-witnesses when explaining how security forces, “backed by thugs wielding heavy machine guns and tear gas intercepted the peaceful march in a street near the building of the General Authority of Electricity in Al-Zira'aa neighborhood.” Another group of assailants took to the rooftops and opened fire with sniper rifles, quickly attracting Mohsen’s forces and provoking a street battle between pro and anti-regime forces. Chinese media is generally pro-Saleh, so such an admission demonstrates his blatant level of assault. Feedback on the ground and many local/international reports collaborate the event, which bears a striking resemblance to March 18th’s massacre in Change Square.

At least 52 protesters were killed and many more injured when snipers opened fire from neighboring buildings, with security forces and plain-clothes actors guarding the entrances. Government officials would blame opposition gunmen for shooting the revolutionaries.

Seven months have passed since President Barack Obama “strongly condemned” the attack in Change Square. Calling “on President Saleh to adhere to his public pledge to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully” Obama “demanded” that “those responsible for today’s violence must be held accountable.” Saleh, of course, rejected the White House outright and continued his slaughter under the cover of the GCC’s initiative, sponsored by Washington and Riyadh. The administration’s soft touch has encouraged Saleh’s bad behavior before and after the revolution, a trend that continues up to the present moment.

So what will the State Department say now? Will it retract its “encouragement” of Saleh’s regime, or stick with its usual silence? While a statement will presumably be delivered tomorrow, anything less than total renunciation of Saleh’s regime equates to his victory. The AP’s story contains an interesting juxtaposition of propaganda, first citing the “transfer of dialogue” over the GCC’s initiative as “just the latest of many delaying tactics.” The AP then slips in the following line at the bottom: “The U.S. withdrew its support of Saleh as the protests gained strength.”

In reality the Obama administration continues to support Saleh’s regime through the GCC, and by condoning his violent streak. Many factors generated Sunday’s bloodshed, but the State Department’s disconnected statement is certainly one of them. In the week since Saleh transferred “authority to conduct a dialogue” to his Vice President, Abd al-Rahman Mansur al-Hadi, dozens of protesters have been killed and many more wounded. Saleh also continues to rearrange and stall the GCC’s proposal despite extremely generous terms. It’s safe to say he won’t be signing within “one week,” and that the State Department’s meek statement encouraged his son and nephew’s crackdown.

"In my 30-year career, I have never seen anything like this," said Dr. Tariq Nooman, a surgeon providing treatment at the field hospital. "But we cannot lay blame solely on the regime - as Saleh sits in a palace in Riyadh, the Saudis are literally allowing him to slaughter the Yemeni people."

The same goes for Washington. As Saleh’s security forces fired indiscriminately into the protesters’ ranks, U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein was busy “renewing the American support” with Chief of Staff Ahmed al-Ashwal.

A longer analysis on Yemen’s revolution was planned before Sunday’s attack, and will now be posted after the Obama administration’s potential response. But whatever the White House or State Department have to say on Monday probably won’t be good enough for Yemenis. Their only hope of removing Saleh’s regime is mass demonstrations on an unprecedented scale.

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