Will Yemen's fierce fighting push protesters to take up arms?
After three days of rocket attacks, shelling, and shooting that have killed 60, some worry Yemen's protesters – who have so far used sticks and Molotov cocktails – may take up conventional arms.
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Saleh has given his deputy the authority to negotiate on his behalf, but whether talks will go any further is unclear. The president has backed out of three previous deals at the last minute, and protesters see this latest promise to negotiate a deal as yet another stall tactic. Saleh has long played Yemen's diverse factions against each other, using a divide-and-conquer strategy to stay in power for 32 years.Skip to next paragraph
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Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy writes that Saleh's latest effort to undermine the unity of those opposed to his rule appears to be working, in part because the US and international community – consumed by Libya, Syria, and the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN – have lost the sense of urgency they had early on about pulling Yemen back from the brink.
Even though thousands of incredibly determined and resilient Yemenis continued to protest regularly, and analysts warned with increasing desperation that missing the opportunity to bring about a transition would be a disastrous mistake, the urgency faded away. Indeed, Saleh's regime counted on that fading external urgency as part of its strategy of delay and distraction, hoping to outlast, confuse, divide, and where possible crush the protest movement. Now, Yemenis are paying for that neglect in blood.
The US, the GCC, the UN, and Yemen's opposition need to push for Saleh to leave power now and for Yemen to immediately begin a meaningful political transition. Not in a few months, not in a few years, and not empty promises of future change which no Yemeni any longer believes.
The US and the international community has left mediation efforts to Saudi Arabia and the GCC. But Mr. Lynch writes that the GCC has proven that it is unable to bring about a resolution and the violence has rendered tenets of the deal – namely immunity from prosecution for Saleh and his officials – unacceptable to the various facets of the opposition.
With the list of dead and wounded Yemeni civilians growing and rage swelling across the country, few are likely to be interested in the GCC's deal granting amnesty to those responsible for a fresh massacre. I agree with them. One of the most important accomplishments of Libya and of the rapidly evolving international norms around the Arab uprisings has been the rejection of impunity for such atrocities, and Saleh's regime should be no exception.