Editorial : Saleh’s choice - Thursday 24th March 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/24/salehs-choice.html

IS Ali Abdullah Saleh going to outdo his Libyan counterpart in piling up bodies? On Tuesday, the Yemen president spoke in grim terms and said the current wave of rebellion could tear the country apart and lead to a bloody civil war. He should know that a civil war is already raging, that his country already stands ‘torn’, and his own position is precarious. An aide said Mr Saleh would not leave without knowing who would succeed him. This is a familiar trick which Hosni Mubarak tried and failed. While the former Egyptian strongman promised an election within six months, Mr Saleh wants to hold a parliamentary elections in January next — a wait of nine months. No wonder the Yemeni opposition has rejected the move because it suspects that such a vote will be manipulated to ensure the victory of Saleh loyalists.
As in Libya, there are defections in the Yemeni armed forces, and like Muammar Qadhafi, Mr Saleh has armed and used his supporters without any qualms of conscience to kill the protesters — firing from rooftops, the regime’s supporters killed 46 demonstrators in a single day. Unlike Libya, the anti-Saleh dissent is relatively well-organised and seems to have a countrywide support base. Like the two Arab leaders who have already fallen, Mr Saleh has no supporters in or outside the Arab wor-ld. Next-door neighbour Saudi Arabia, which rushed its security forces to Bahrain to support a monarchy under siege from its own people, has kept quiet on the Yemen civil war, even though Mr Saleh has time and again tried to raise the Al Qaeda bogey in a vain bid to seek Saudi and western support. Mr Saleh may consider his regime a key US ally in the war on terror, but that has not stopped President Obama from calling for action against those responsible for the March 18 massacre and asserting that his administration stood for political change for meeting “the aspirations of the Yemeni people”. Mr Saleh, it seems, has no choice but to bow to his people’s wishes.
From Algeria to Syria, the Arab world is on the boil, the revolts being an expression of anger against decades of political suppression, if not of economic deprivation, as the unrest in oil-rich Libya and Bahrain shows. Bashar al-Assad’s rule may be 11 years old, but the Assad family has been in power now for four decades, and the current uprising is indicative of the Syrian people’s legitimate desire for change, freedom and an open society. Like Mr Saleh, Mr Assad too must see the writing on the wall.

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