Yemen thrust into deeper uncertainty after Gulf deal falls through
A Gulf-brokered deal to usher Saleh out of power has failed. Yemeni protesters have settled in for the long haul with tents wired for Internet access and satellite TV.
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Yemen's oil industry has been particularly affected; with production dropping nearly 50 percent, the result of damaged pipelines and the temporary closure of some oil facilities.Skip to next paragraph
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Amir al Aydarous, the country's oil minister, recently told the state-run news agency that continued unrest could lead to "catastrophe beyond imagination." Yemen's modest oil reserves provide nearly 70 percent of the government's revenues.
A largely leaderless movement
The movement itself remains largely leaderless. While some of the demonstrators are affiliated with opposition parties, most continue to fiercely assert their independence. Images of slain former President Ibrahim al Hamdi, who ran the country from 1974 to 1977, far outnumber images of current opposition leaders.
"We will talk about parties when we are talking about elections," said Ibrahim Yayha al Kulani. "Until then, we will remain one united front, not differentiating between party, region or sect."
Various self-described "revolutionary youth committees" have sprouted in different areas of Yemen. Notably, the past weeks have seen growing cooperation between groups in different cities, culminating in the formation this week of a single, nationwide "Media Council of the Revolution." Another group, the Supreme Coordination Council of the Revolution, has called for a series of marches, strikes and camp expansions, culminating in a march Tuesday on the Presidential Palace.
For its part, the US, for which Saleh has been a key ally in the war on terror, and the European Union remain supportive of the GCC plan, which would grant Saleh immunity from prosecution for the hundreds of deaths suffered in the crackdown on the protests. The young people who've remained camped out in protest reject that idea in particular, and many Yemen observers believe the GCC plan is doomed.
"It is a mistake for the United States to continue to let the GCC take the lead on this, both for the future of Yemen as well as for U.S. security interests," commented Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen scholar at Princeton University. "The US must take the lead in constructively shaping a post-Saleh Yemen."
Others say the US support for any plan makes it unworkable.
"This is not even just a GCC plan," said Feris al Areeqi, a professor of engineering at Sanaa University. "This is a GCC-EU-USA plan. How can they intervene positively when they have supported Saleh?"
(Baron is a McClatchy special correspondent.)