Yemen: Making Deals At Gunpoint

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October 25, 2011: President Saleh again refused to step down, this time rejecting a deal proposed by the UN and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council, the wealthy Arab Gulf oil states.) On some days, Saleh says he might accept a deal proposed by the UN and/or GCC. Then he changes his mind. Saleh appears willing to risk another civil war, rather than see his coalition lose control of the country (and a disproportionate share of taxes and other benefits.) But many of the tribes are fed up with decades of being shortchanged by this deal. It's not so much about democracy as it is about a growing number of people wanting a larger slice of a shrinking pie. The economy and standard-of-living is still declining, and the unrest is making this worse.

More of the violence is occurring in the capital, where armed men from the nearby Ahmar tribe increasingly enter the city looking for a fight. Previously allies of Saleh, the Ahmar wanted a better deal, were turned down, and have joined the opposition over the last few months. But Saleh still controls most of the armed forces, and has a firepower advantage over the tribal militias. This somewhat restrains the tribes, because if they push it too far, Saleh can use his artillery and air power to do lots of damage to valuable property owned by prominent tribal members. Saleh apparently feels he can wear down his opponents, and eventually make a much more favorable peace deal. So far, the large-scale, unarmed, demonstrations continue, and the death toll from seven months of violence is less than 900.

Most of the deaths come from skirmishing between small groups of armed tribesmen and soldiers. Al Qaeda is still making attacks, but not a lot of them, and often to little effect. Troops and police will still fire on large demonstrations, to break them up, or halt their movement. But most of the bullets are fired over the crowds, and when a few demonstrators get hit, the rest take the hint and disperse.

Saleh has been asking for worldwide immunity from prosecution (for corruption and war crimes), but has not gotten it. As recently as the late 20th century, it was common to unofficially let deposed dictators retire to a comfortable exile in some other country. But the 21st century is less accommodating to departing despots, thus making it more likely that tyrants will fight to the death (not only of themselves, but of many of their supporters and opponents.) Saleh is adapting to these new mores, and is determined not to end up like Kaddafi. 

October 23, 2011: Clashes in the capital left at least 13 dead.

October 22, 2011: Clashes in the capital left at least ten dead.

October 18, 2011: Tribesmen blew up part of an oil pipeline near the capital. The rebellious tribes have basically shut down the oil exports, disabling the government's main source of income.

 

 

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