"Something Rotten" in Gulf Initiative for Yemen

Article Summary
The Yemeni revolution will soon enter its second year and its proponents have yet to accomplish their goals, writes Lebanese historian and political analyst Fawwaz Traboulsi. The Gulf Initiative sponsored by the US and Saudi Arabia has prevented the revolution from making a clean break with past, he argues.

One year into the Yemeni Revolution, there are two scenes.

The First Scene

Ali Abdullah Saleh concedes some presidential powers to Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur Hadi in exchange for preserving the core of the Yemeni regime and the inclusion of a junior partner [in government] composed of members from the traditional nationalist and leftist parties. We shall not count the tribal-Islamist-Salafi parties from the Joint Meeting Parties, because they were originally part of the regime and abandoned it under pressure from the revolution.

In exchange for Saleh stepping down, the "Gulf Initiative" - the codename of the US-Saudi solution for Yemen - will ignore the corruption that had reached historic proportions [under Saleh]. The Gulf Initiative not only allows Saleh to maintain control of the larger part of the regime - the military, security, and administrative agencies, and half the transitional government - but also grants him immunity for the killings, assassinations, and massacres against unarmed citizens; and for the waste, corruption, mismanagement, the monopolization of power, and the disastrous wars [he was responsible for]. The immunity law - which the government recently approved and forwarded to the Legislative Council - also applies to Saleh's "aides," i.e., the unspecified number of family members and officials present in the civilian and military administrations for 34 years. Ironically, the "opposition" is now requesting the same immunity for a number of its leaders - military, tribal, and religious - who had been pillars and major beneficiaries of Saleh's rule, before jumping off the sinking ship.

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For the sake of comparison, the historical precedents established by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions for holding rulers and their aides responsible for the killing of protesters, corruption, and the waste and misuse of public funds could have been replicated by the image of the ousted [Yemeni] President obediently sitting in court and respectfully addressing the judge with the words "Your Honor!"

[The Gulf Initiative and the granting of immunities] are all taking place under the sponsorship of the United States and with the complicity of the United Nations, along with their international agencies - agencies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which for a quarter of a century have been preaching the "fight against corruption," "transparency" and "good governance." They have spent hundreds of millions on conferences, seminars, and training workshops [promoting these goals]. But these words have lost all meaning; corruption now only applies to a government employee who accepts a bribe, and not to the one in power who is doing the bribing. The fight against "corruption" is being used to serve the neoliberal agenda: shrinking the government, privatizing most of its functions, reducing the state budget by ending subsidies for essential commodities, eliminating spending on social services, tax cuts, etc. All of this is happening while the true extent of corruption - in the billions - in the Arab world is being revealed. [This corruption was perpetrated] by "ruler-thieves" who monopolized money and power, surrounded themselves with their "40 thieves," and partnered with major multinational companies to loot the [nation's] natural resources.

Here's a simple question: How can somebody be punished for corruption when the kingpins of corruption have been given immunity?

What's making matters worse is that the Gulf Initiative formed a government without starting any kind of discussion about what caused the crisis and triggered the revolution. [And if anything is being done in that regard], it is happening in the absence of the major forces who brought up these issues or the forces that launched the revolution. The Southern Movement, the Houthi movement, and the true representatives in Ta'izz have been excluded, even though they have paid the highest price for ending the tyrant's rule. Last but not least, also excluded were the youth behind the revolution, i.e. the determined millions who protest every day in the streets throughout the country's cities, towns, and rural areas. It is these millions of youth who forced Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. It is they who shook the foundations of his regime and sacrificed the largest number of victims for that objective. These forces have been excluded from consultation and participation and the issues [they wish to see addressed] have been forwarded to the "National Dialogue Conference." This conference is supposed to be held following presidential election - for which only the vice president can be a candidate! - which are supposed to be held 90 days after the government is formed. [Presidential elections] will be followed by parliamentary elections to draft a new constitution, based on which new elections will be held. All that is to take place before the start of the "National Dialogue Conference," which, according to the Gulf Initiative, will discuss the issues brought forth by the Southern Movement, the Houthi movement, and the youth.

The Second Scene

The revolution enters its second year. The millions remaining in the squares and streets highlight the widening gap between the official opposition parties, the proponents of the [Gulf Initiative], and those who wish to protect on the one hand "oil security," and on the other, the hopes and aspirations inspired by the revolution. The battle will not only be about preventing the Legislative Council from granting the ruler immunity or demanding that he be tried like all the other "ruler-thieves." The first confrontation between the forces of the revolution and the forces of regression occurred during the "march for life” to Sana’a, organized last week by the Ta'izz Youth and which lasted for six days. Saleh's soldiers fired on the peaceful march, killing 11 and wounding dozens. The US Ambassador in Sana'a defended the shooting on the grounds that the march was "provocative," because it moved from one town to another!

And so, one year into the Yemeni Revolution, Lesson One: Conjugate the following sentence: Zaid said to Amr that the United States wants to bring democracy to the region!

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