Faced with the reality that Ali Abdullah Saleh and Yemen’s revolutionaries are equally unwilling to stand down, Western officials turned to a new tactic earlier this week. Due to Saleh’s “usefulness” against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Yemen’s geostrategic location, international powers have avoided the financial sanctions levied against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
Now, after meeting with Nobel laurete Tawakel Karman, European officials are set to “discuss” the issue at next week’s meeting in Brussels.
This development, as positive as it appears, feels like another of the many traps set by Western and Gulf capitals. For starters, financial sanctions are likely to prove ineffective against Saleh’s accounts, which are already protected in Gulf banks. The notion of “financial” sanctions also diverts attention from the more pressing need: a freeze on U.S. military support. Neither response would halt Saleh’s ferocious crackdown against Yemen’s revolutionaries, but a unified political position would assist them in the long-term.
Instead foreign powers have unified against Yemenis through the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The threat of financial sanctions functions as pressure to sign the GCC’s unpopular initiative, not genuine punishment as Saleh's forces tirelessly assault Sana’a and Taiz. Washington has tasked an ICC warrant to European powers (as the U.S. isn’t a full member), but leaving the EU in charge of financial sanctions reeks of a setup. The GCC’s initiative also contains an immunity clause for Saleh and his inner circle of security commanders, including many relatives, and the international community continues to ignore widespread opposition to the proposal.
Western officials on recent record maintain support for the GCC’s initiative, and their true intentions will be confirmed if and when its officials step out to advocate again. Many protesters inside and outside of Yemen are at a loss to deter foreign powers from regime manipulation, but they stand ready to confront the outside world.
With these factors in mind, Yemen’s revolutionaries wanted to remind the international community of a primary demand on their 40th Friday of demonstrations: “No Immunity For Murders.”