Despite months of public protests and violent crackdowns that have been among the worst in the region, the Obama Administration has been loath to offer any criticism for long-time Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. With defections and growing demonstrations making that ouster virtually unstoppable, the administration is now said to be in talks on a “negotiated exit.”
And as with other protest movements calling for the ouster of regimes the administration is friendly with, the “deal” they are close to reaching appears to have nothing in common with the protesters’ demands.
Instead of an immediate ouster of the current regime and a promise of free elections, the deal would have military general and Vice President Abd Mansur al-Hadi taking the reins as the “interim” ruler of the country, pending unspecified “reforms” leading to a new election at some unspecified date.
With protesters spurning previous suggestions Saleh might cede power to one of his close allies, the US deal seems a nonstarter with them. After all, few in the regime have held positions longer than Hadi (VP since 1994), and there seems little stomach among the protesters for a general to take over the nation.
Officials familiar with the secretive talks say the agreement is already in place in principle and the only question is when Saleh will agree to step down. At the same time, secessionist movements are already taking large portions of Yemen over, so even if this somehow placates the student protesters, it is unclear how much of a country Hadi will have left to rule.