Over the past few days, most Yemen-watchers (both Yemeni and foreign) on the internets have expressed dismay over the possibility that the United States would allow President/Former President/Honorary President 'Ali 'Abdullah Saleh into this country. As of yesterday, if the New York Times' sources are to be believed, the Obama administration had as good as made up its security-addled mind to grant Saleh a visa "for legitimate medical treatment" in New York City. I've talked to a few people this week who don't understand why I think this is a terrible idea. If you're one of these people, I suggest you read Andrew Exum's post from last night on the subject, because I don't feel like repeating what's already been well said. The main points I'd like to make are that, while we all know by now that Obama's CT advisor John Brennan has more say on Yemen policy than the entire State Department, the US government has been pursuing a full-court press of stupidness when it comes to Yemen and Arabia in general, and that the administration is not prepared for the consequences of this stupidity.
On Friday and Saturday the Saleh regime's security forces attacked protesters who had made a five-day march from Ta‘iz to San‘a, killing at least 10 and injuring dozens. US Ambassador Gerald M. Feierstein decided this would be a good time to say publicly and on the record that the marchers were not, in fact, peaceful protesters, but agents of chaos and violence. Even for Yemenis accustomed to America's arrogance and wrongheadedness, this statement was shocking.
The administration officials quoted in the NYT article above are quick to blow off any suggested parallels between their decision to host Saleh now and the Carter administration's welcoming of the Shah of Iran in 1979. They've got all kinds of justifications for the decision, which might even sound convincing to some Americans. These justifications are misguided and dangerous. Let me spell this out in terms simple enough for John Brennan to understand: for 11 months, Yemenis have demanded the ouster of Saleh and the establishment of a democratic government. For 11 months, the US has refused to support those demands; has refused to condemn Saleh's murderous repression of his people; has tried to force unwelcome, Saudi-crafted false solutions down Yemen's throat; has repeatedly blamed protesters for the regime's violence against them; has continued to kill innocent Yemeni civilians in ill-conceived and poorly-executed CT efforts; has continued to support the regime's military; and now appears ready to allow Saleh to take a free vacation in New York while his children continue to murder Yemenis. In short, the Obama administration is treating the people of Yemen as The Enemy. Can any of us really expect Yemenis not to return the favor?
Mr. Brennan, how do you think this will end?