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Qais Ghanem, MD

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One of These Brutal Dictators Is Not Like the Others

Posted: 12/11/11 01:43 PM ET

Three Arab brutal dictators are gone, one way or another. For the one in Damascus, the indications are that the noose is being slowly and progressively tightened, and it is likely to be a matter of weeks rather than months.

So, why is the brutal dictator of Yemen different? His supporters will tell you that it is because he is very cunning and scheming, for to an average Yemeni, and I am one, that description is considered to be a compliment. If you can get away with it, good for you. That would be their sentiment.

But, as I said in a previous blog on Yemen, Saleh's sons and nephews command very sensitive positions in the armed and security forces, which have been left intact since the signing, and have in fact shown evidence of renewed brutality especially against the residents of the beautiful city of Taiz. It would appear that the Riyadh agreement did not ensure the dismantling of the command in the Republican Guards or National Security, which has thus emboldened the triumphant Saleh to exact revenge against his enemies, especially in Taiz.

Second, whereas the Arab League, in which Saudi Arabia is a major player, has escalated punitive actions, including sanctions, according to the degree of defiance by Bashshar Al-Assad, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) effectively did nothing when Saleh returned to Sanaa, only to resume acting as the president of the country, as if nothing had happened.

The GCC seems to have washed its hands of the whole thing, and left it to the Yemenis to sort it out for themselves, despite the asymmetry between the three sides in this dispute, namely the government, the opposition coalition, and the unarmed peaceful youth in the city squares.

Third, because of one and two above, the opposition, now led by 78-year-old Aden-born Mohammed Salem Basindwah, in the face of Saleh's renewed defiance, and for lack of any other effective means, has chosen to share a government with the General People's Congress (GPC), whose leader remains none other than Saleh himself, and whose members have for years been the henchmen of Saleh, and complicit in his crimes. Thus the deputy minister of information and the foreign minister are now occupying the exact same positions, from which they should have been removed, and possibly prosecuted.

In his interview with Al-Jazeera, Prime Minister Basindwa appeared weak and diffident. Asked what he would do in the face of the defiant continuation of ruling the country by Saleh, as if he was still president, he simply shrugged his shoulders and agreed that Saleh was not abiding by the very agreement he signed. Many in Yemen and ouside are now beginning to blame the opposition for granting their blessing to the apparent carte blanche immunity given by the GCC, not only to Saleh, but all those in his camp. We are talking about many thousands here. Despite this sweet deal, and perhaps because of it, Saleh is manifesting total intransigence.

There can be no doubt that the GCC countries, led by King Abdulla, are fully aware of all this. Yet, there has been no condemnation of Saleh's defiance let alone action such as sanctions, asset freezing or limitation of travel of Saleh's inner circle. "Why" is the question many Yemenis are asking; why this blatant double standard?

My own conversations with friends and family in Sanaa reveals that all the Riyadh signatories we saw on TV allegedly received three million Saudi Riyals each. When I asked my informant how he could possibly know that, he simply said, "In Yemen there are no secrets."

 

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