Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Blog

Despite over a hundred protesters having been killed in Yemen, the country’s youth continue to fill the streets in the tens of thousands, calling for the ouster of President Saleh. President Saleh has been resistant to leaving office immediately, insisting on a face-saving transition out of power that would take place at a future election poll.

When Qatar’s Prime Minister al-Thani suggested the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was hoping to “reach a deal with the Yemeni president to step down,” it was rejected as “blatant interference in Yemeni affairs.” But when the GCC actually put out the statement calling for “the formation of a national unity government under the leadership of the opposition,” President Saleh “welcomed” the GCC’s “efforts,” confusing observers about his position on the GCC initiative.

Lybia’s Qaddafi was also playing all cards at once in his ramblings early on in the uprisings, when he would simultaneously curse, threaten and rave against the people of Benghazi while appealing to them to support him against alleged conspirators who were trying to destabilize the country. While virtually all of the region’s governments that faced uprisings have attempted to use both carrots & sticks (offering economic & political concessions and negotiations while employing deadly violence), the extent of the discord in the public pronouncements of the Yemeni and Libyan leaders shows a good deal of indecisiveness in how to pursue the perpetuation of their regimes or the search for a safe and dignified exit. It seems that they want to ride a wave of ambiguity for as long as possible in the hopes of keeping all options open until choosing a well-defined course becomes unavoidable.

President Saleh’s welcoming of the GCC statement despite criticizing its impending emergence may very well be related to its calling for “guarantees” to prevent “all forms of revenge…and [legal] pursuance,” which is a subtle reassurance to Saleh that he need not fear prosecution where he to choose to step down. If he begins to feel that his ouster is imminent, he will certainly look to capitalize on such a deal. Nevertheless, the opposition in Yemen is divided on the GCC initiative, with the leadership in Yemen accepting it “in principle” and thousands demonstrating against it in the streets. The same is true of the African Union’s initiative to negotiate a compromise between Qaddafi and the rebels in Libya, which was met with protests today in Benghazi. The clouds of ambiguity and division in Libya and Yemen render the near future in both countries very difficult to predict.   

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