On Saturday Ali Abdullah Saleh issued his usual pledge to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) initiative: "We look at the Gulf initiative as an indivisible integrated system.” Yemen’s embattled strongman has good reason to fulfill his promise, as the initiative would keep his party and security commanders in power through a UN-mandated transitional period. Washington and Riyadh also offered him immunity from 33 years of misrule and 10 months of sustained aggression against Yemeni protesters.
Casualty figures are highly disputed, but the death toll is estimated well above 1,000, with countless thousands injured and displaced.
Saleh appears bent on going out in a glaze of “glory” - the stupidity of Mubarak and Gaddafi. Often embedding his promises within rows of accusations against the oppositional Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), Saleh has spared no effort in attempting to implode the GCC’s initiative. When he isn’t refusing to sign in the presence of foreign diplomats, Saleh’s security forces provoke armed JMP elements with the intention of nullifying the GCC’s initiative. His standard claim: the JMP collaborates with al-Qaeda.
“We welcomed the initiative and we appreciate the Gulf brothers for their positive dealing but we are sorry to say it did not fail but it was suspended because the JMP refusal to come to the Republican Palace to sign it.”
Saleh hasn't changed one line of rhetoric since May, when he “agreed” to the GCC’s proposal three times before aborting. In reality he never meant to sign, and the false notion that he “reneged three times” negatively affects Yemen’s revolution to this day. Saleh would “promise” again and again, an obvious stall tactic approved by concerned foreign powers. After designating his vice president to sign in his absence, another shady maneuver backed by Western and Gulf states, Saleh instead returned to Sana’a in September after a three month medical leave in Riyadh. His son, Ahmed, held the throne throughout a brutal summer, and the streets of Sana’a would flow with blood upon his return.
“We are ready and willing to sign at any time,” Saleh claimed as the dust temporarily settled. “But we need to sign the GCC initiative as a whole, and we need timelines for the mechanism of executing it. We are not holding onto power, we are willing to leave power as stated in the agreement, within the days and hours that will be agreed upon.”
That he’s still "supporting" the GCC initiative seven months after its introduction is part of Yemen’s problem, not its solution. Concocted by foreign powers seeking regime alteration, the initiative fails to resolve the situation’s fundamental issues. The GCC would simply leave Saleh’s regime in power to do political battle with the opposition, returning Yemen to its pre-revolutionary position. The mass of Yemen’s protesters seek a new political order devoid of the traditional political elite.
By controlling the GCC’s initiative, Western capitals have encouraged Saleh to hold out for as long as internally possible.
He “commemorated” Eid al-Adha with another scathing attack on Yemen’s opposition: “The current daily escalation and their failure to respond or meet the international community's call that stressed the importance of resolving the Yemeni crisis through a political settlement agreement based on the Gulf initiative are all evidence to their insistence to complicate the crisis and rejection of all initiatives suggested by the good forces in the world keen to preserve the unity, security, and stability of the homeland; namely, the GCC initiative which we have always supported.”
Saleh also claimed to support UN resolution 2014, one of many signs that it favors his regime.
The international reaction to Saleh’s latest actions couldn’t have been more pathetic. With al-Assad attracting criticism from foreign governments and media, Saleh continues to fly under international radar due to his uses. Growing tired of his crying wolf would be understandable if paired with targeted condemnation, but Western diplomats spent the week hyping an agreement by Eid al-Adha. Naturally this false alarm comes with no punishment - because the international community triggered it.
Media headlines are equally misleading. The few media outlets that did submit a basic report ran ridiculous headlines such as “Committed to Gulf transition plan or,” Yemen's Saleh makes Eid plea for peace.” This “plea for peace” was wedged between hostility towards the JMP; two paragraphs support the GCC’s initiative, compared to dozens criticizing the JMP and rejecting Yemen’s revolution. Oppositional warnings date as far back as Saleh’s rhetorical tricks.
"President Saleh has been seeking to drag the military and security forces into full-armed confrontation in a bid to abort the initiative brokered recently by the foreign ministers of the GCC," defected general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar predicted in April.
A disproportionate amount of attention has been given to Yemen’s tribal conflict with the regime. These factors unquestionable shape the present situation and Yemen’s long-term future, but they also minimize the revolutionary forces at work. Saleh wants the international spotlight - dim as it is - to stay on the opposition and international powers are happy to oblige. His end game remains absolute: drag Yemen’s tribes into manufactured civil war, or else manipulate a snap election.
"We will face the challenge with challenge.. And who wants power, he should turn to the ballot boxes.”
The GCC’s initiative offers a false exit to Yemen’s revolution. A sustainable solution must be internally developed by the youth/civil movement, tribes and regional parties in the north and south (Houthis and Southern Movement). A sustainable solution doesn’t include Saleh’s vice president of 19 years or a “unity” coalition with his ruling party. Unfortunately the Obama administration has hooked onto a calculating madman in Yemen - a man who will never change.