As violence continues in Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh has promised, once again, that he will step down. According to a France24 interview with Saleh, which aired last night, the leadership transition would happen 90 days after the signing of an agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The GCC agreement calls for Saleh to step aside within 30 days.
There is a great deal of skepticism about Saleh’s latest announcement given a string of broken promises that have been made since anti-government protests began in February. The GCC initiative was expected to have been signed this past April.
Video: Interview with President Saleh
When asked what he thought about the Arab revolution to date Saleh said, “As far as I’m concerned, they aren’t really revolutions. This is chaos, rather, Arab chaos, creative chaos admittedly.” He continued to say:
“What’s happening is that these protest movements are supported by small states in the region that lack influence, but are trying to assert themselves. And, of course, these countries are sending mercenaries, troublemakers of all kinds, but in reality these governments are not supporting Arab revolutions. They are, above all, seeking to undermine the Arab regimes and their interference certainly hurts national unity in all these countries. And, that is fueling chaos in the region.”
Unfortunately, Saleh’s comments fail to recognize the legitimate demands of many Yemeni citizens. Yemen faces chronic underdevelopment and President Saleh has maintained his grip on power for 33 years. According to Al Arabiya news:
“The uprising which erupted in the Arab world’s poorest country early this year was initially against high levels of unemployment, deteriorating economic conditions and corruption among officials as well as against the government’s proposal to modify Yemen’s constitution.”
International Community Seeks End to Violence
Many countries, including the United States, have called for Yemen’s embattled President to step down. The United Nations Security Council also passed a resolution in October urging Saleh to sign the Gulf Coordination Council initiative consistent with the commitments he had made. The resolution further called “for this commitment to be translated into action, in order to achieve a peaceful political transition of power, as stated in the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative and the Presidential decree of 12 September, without further delay.”
Earlier this week, the UN envoy to Yemen arrived in the capital of Sana’a to promote the GCC proposal. Western countries are considering individual sanctions on Saleh and his son as a means to increase pressure.