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Right Turn
Posted at 08:45 AM ET, 04/28/2011

Will the Yemen deal hold?

The Post reports:

A violent clash in Yemen’s capital left at least 10 anti-government protesters dead and scores injured after a crowd tried unsuccessfully to take control of the state-run television station, according to protesters and volunteer doctors.

The violence was a sign of growing unrest despite a tentative deal between the government and an opposition coalition that calls for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down within 30 days and grants Saleh and his family immunity from criminal prosecution.

I spoke with Steve Sotloff of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He’s made multiple trips to the region since the Tunisia dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was deposed in January. He isn’t optimistic that the Saleh deal will hold. “There is very little likelihood this deal can stick,” he says. “It was hatched by President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar with the agreement of the al-Ahmar tribal sheikhs and the opposition parties. It does not guarantee Saleh will resign, only that he will ask parliament to accept his departure. If it does not, he will remain president.” That deal, Sotloff says, has now “angered the youths leading the protests and they now say the opposition parties no longer speak for them.”

Nevertheless, it is near certain that Saleh’s rule will end. As Sotloff puts it, “Saleh is running out of options and may have to accept a humiliating departure.”

A split among opposition forces greatly complicates matters. Sotloff explains, “With the opposition losing face with the protesters, it is now difficult to tell what type of government will emerge in the post-Saleh era.” Still, he cautions, we should not “expect a military junta like we see in Egypt or complete disorganization as in Tunis. The Yemeni opposition has always played a political role and has an understanding of what governing entails.”

The new government leaves the question of the South’s secession open. He says, “A post-Saleh Yemen will be weak but not too weak to prevent Southerners from seceding. Plus, with weak rule from the North, the Southerners will likely see an increase in autonomy and some concessions to entice them to not clamor for secession.”

Yemen’s Saleh is yet another in the long list of despots with whom the United States imagined it could do business. Yemen was such a “reliable” partner in the war on terror, according to the Obama team, that we were willing to release Gitmo detainees. All those assumptions, like many others about the Middle East, are now in shambles.

By  |  08:45 AM ET, 04/28/2011

Categories:  foreign policy

 
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