April 7, 2011

Yemeni Opposition Weighing GCC Proposal

More light is beginning to shine through in Yemen, but the last storm clouds still need to clear. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has submitted a proposal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh that would see him step down immediately, giving way to a three-month “interim council of tribal and political leaders.” Saleh’s presidential powers would be transferred to Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in line with previous offers from the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP). The council would then prepare a new constitution and schedule parliamentary elections.

Saleh has supposedly “welcomed” the agreement as it provides amnesty and a safe exit for his family, who controls the majority of the government’s agencies. General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar would join him in exile.

Several problems immediately arise. Letting Saleh walk may tempt the opposition if he won’t leave any other way, except the popular core has insisted on trying him for crimes against the people. More willing to slide, Yemen’s political opposition - mainly the JMP and Islah Party - tried to negotiate a backdoor but refrained out of fear of losing the streets. Amnesty is politically smart and emotionally risky. Regardless, it's better than Saleh leading his General People’s Congress (GPC) from the opposition.

Yemen’s outgoing president has repeatedly expressed his intent to end with dignity, a pointed reference to the neutered Hosni Mubarak, and continue his political career. For him to genuinely switch his mind over a course of days isn’t like him, although a calculated flip-flop is.

“The President’s emotional intelligence is off the scale,’’ a Western official in Yemen told The New Yorker's Dexter Filkins. “He balances all the forces, works all the personal connections, manages somehow to keep it from spinning out of control. He has no fixed positions. His character is entirely situational.”

Hadi also reportedly turned down the role of overseeing the transition. Reuters speculates that “Saleh would appoint a new figure,” which won’t fly with the opposition. The GCC’s agreement might already stipulate political figures from the old regime, another potential red flag. Reuters cites Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, a leading tribal figure who turned on Saleh and tipped the revolution, as competing with Abdulkarim al-Iryani, a current an adviser to Saleh, and another former premier Abdulaziz Abdul-Ghani.

“Opposition sources say Saleh trusts his Saudi ally to make sure the leader of the council is a figure acceptable to him. The council would appoint the national unity government in coordination with the Saleh-appointed vice president.”

The GCC has extended an invitation to leading members of Yemen's youth and popular opposition. Leery of Saleh’s political allies, most groups are holding tight until detailed information is released. But they still have to play ball if they’re going to play hardball, and the GCC hopes to set a date in the near future. Yemen’s revolution is finally beginning to see its ultimate objective through the chaos.

However, like Egypt’s transition, more smoke will precede and follow the glorious blaze.


  1. The Saudi's are neck deep in all of this.
    They are the lead player in the whole region.
    They are trying to buy peace in their own country.
    They are in Bahrain.
    They are in bed with Israel.
    They play the Sunni/Shia fear card along with their Western allies.
    The House of Saud was not built upon granite.
    It was built on sand.
    If there is a Shia uprising in the oil field region of Saudi Arabia.
    The House of Saud will step into quick sand.

  2. Yes, the Muslim revolution will ultimately boil down to the Saudi equation. But a good deal of tension exists between Riyadh, Washington, and Jerusalem, let alone the forces that oppose their hegemony. They have to clean up their own policy as much as others need to tear it down. The House of Saud won't fall on its own, but life won't be the same if the majority of neighboring regimes do. Especially if democratic movements provide immediate and positive results.