Wednesday, April 6, 2011

GCC strength can outlast US role in Yemen

National Editorial

Apr 6, 2011

After weeks of waffling on its Yemen policy, Washington appears to have settled on a pair of uncomfortable truths. Support Yemen's current President, and instability persists, or call for a new government, and risk opening Yemen up to greater al Qaeda influence.

While both positions are unpalatable, the US has little choice but to heed the calls of Yemen's citizens if it wants to come down on the right side of history. In doing so, Washington may be hammering the final nail in the coffin of Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule by withdrawing its support for the president. But US influence ends there.

As GCC leaders remarked last week, Yemen's crisis is an ongoing conflict that needs a homegrown solution. Using its political clout and economic resources, the GCC can play a decisive role in ensuring the country's long-term stability.

Talks are a start. Yemen's foreign minister and one of the regime's top military commanders who recently defected have said they would be open to a meeting in Riyadh by invitation from the GCC. In a statement on Sunday, GCC ministers called on all parties in Yemen's crisis "to consider national interest and to resort to national dialogue".

This is easier said than done, given the numerous factions vying for a voice in Yemen's future. But any plan to forge a diplomatic solution is welcome. Yemen's long-suffering population and its brave protesters deserve more than the lip service their current leader has delivered.

For too long the status quo has impeded progress. Far from bilateral engagements and generous aid packages, the US-Yemen relationship has been narrowly focused on containing al Qa'eda through joint counterterrorism operations. A smattering of aid and failed democracy initiatives notwithstanding, the US has generally lacked the desire to plunge into the morass of Yemen's development.

Water scarcity, persistent unemployment and rife corruption - exacerbated by tribal divides - have worsened throughout Mr Saleh's three-decade rule. These problems will linger whether or not Mr Saleh remains at the helm, and will have to be confronted by a far more responsive and accountable government. Encouraging regional partners willing to assist is the only way of ensuring, in the words of the GCC, a future that addresses "the aspirations of Yemeni people for reform and decent living".

Source: The National

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