Yemen’s embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh will only cede power “through the ballot box and by adhering the constitution,” his foreign minister said. Still in Saudi Arabia recovering from injuries sustained in an assassination attempt in June, Saleh’s reverence for the political process is dubious given his history of contempt for such processes.
The deal brokered by the Gulf states and Washington calls for Saleh to step down, absolved from prosecution, within 30 days and for new elections to take place within 60 days. The Yemeni government objects on the grounds that it’s not enough time to have elections and therefore Yemen would be without a leader. This excuse is suspicious given Saleh’s three previous refusals to sign similar deals.
Despite official U.S. calls for Saleh to step down, Yemen is set to receive $120.2 million in aid in fiscal year 2012, the largest slice of which is in security and military assistance. A congressional committee approved on Wednesday a new condition on Yemen’s aid, requiring the State Department to certify that the Yemeni government is cooperating sufficiently in the war on terror. This would explain Yemen’s claim on Tuesday to have killed 10 al-Qaeda militants, although some experts doubt they were actually al-Qaeda.
The Obama administration has been implementing an intensified covert war in Yemen, using unmanned drone attacks as their primary weapon. If Saleh’s resilience to continue to rule begins to wane, Washington is expected to support someone in his ranks to replace him. Having a reliable tyrant in Yemen is vital if it is to remain an obedient client.