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Qais Ghanem, MD Headshot

The Worst Initiative in the History of All Revolutions

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On December 16, Yemeni Nobel Laureate Tawakkol Karman gave an impressive presentation, and answered questions at Chatham House in London. I heard her say that the Gulf Initiative, which called for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign from presidency but that has led to violence, was the worst initiative in the history of all revolutions. My old classmate from Aden College, now retired lawyer Awadh Mabjar, told Tawakkol, "The Saudi people, and I am talking about the people, not the regime, are waiting for the Yemeni people to succeed, for them to start their own revolution."

Her principal reason for saying so was that the initiative, while only partially solving the conflict, gave Saleh carte blanche immunity. It also allowed men who aided and abetted him in oppressing the Yemeni nation for three decades to continue to hold the same sensitive positions they previously held while executing the orders of their master. What she said was in fact not profound at all if one makes a simple comparison.

What if the Arab League, of which the GCC is a major component and of which Saudi Arabia is the undisputed leader, now offered the same "initiative" to Syria, giving Bashshar Al-Asad complete immunity, and three months to gradually relinquish power to Vice President of Cultural Affairs Najah Al-Attar? This would leave Walid Muallem, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bashshar's brother Maher Al-Assad, chief of the Republican Guard, and Reem Haddad, spokesperson for Syrian Information Ministry, to continue spouting out Bashshar's propaganda.

Most people reading such news would probably dismiss it as insulting window dressing. It would simply be unthinkable. Well, that is exactly what happened in Yemen. What we hear and read indicate that Saleh has not stopped playing the role of President, and that his son Ahmed Saleh the commander of the Republican Guard, and nephew Yahya Saleh, chief of central security forces, are as powerful and active as ever. In fact, they have been purging any rebellious elements under their commands.

There is a report that a ship, owned by these two military officers, has just sailed from my city of Aden for the United Arab Emirates, laden with Arabian horses, rare animals, and other precious antiquities that had been kept in the family's palaces in Sanaa.

One wonders whether that includes gold bullion, which would be far less visible. Recently, one of Saleh's loyalists, tribal chief Sheik Mohammed al-Shayef who is also a leading member of Saleh's People's Congress Party, announced that the president had decided to remain because of the unrest, as if there was no unrest before today.

Perhaps the saddest part of this fiasco is the naïve role played by the so-called opposition, led by an old Adeni friend of my own family, namely the interim prime minister Muhammad Salem Basindwa. From what I know of him, he probably genuinely believed that in accepting the role he might hasten the handover of government, and thus save lives.

Now, however, it is quite clear that Basindwa is dealing -- in the words of Saleh -- with snakes, and has been duped. Therefore what he must do now is to resign and take with him all those in the opposition who still have some dignity. Anything less would be shameful collaboration with "familiocracy" at the expense of the revolution, which was started by the youth of Yemen while the opposition slept for decades.

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