Just Security published an op-ed today by YPP executive director Will Picard, warning of the dangers of a deal currently being negotiated in secret that could return former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to power. Saleh was ousted in late 2011, after a lengthy popular uprising and a schism within the regime. In 2014 he allied himself with the Houthi movement to orchestrate a coup, sparking the ongoing civil war in Yemen. While the UN-led peace process has stalled, it appears that that the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are negotiating with Saleh's party to form a new government and end the Gulf states' military intervention. The new government would reportedly include Saleh's son and other members of the pro-Saleh branch of Yemen's ruling GPC party.
This deal, negotiated without the participation of the U.N. envoy, would be disastrous for Yemen. At its heart, it is merely a reshuffling of the same old corrupt and criminal elites that have been running Yemen into the ground for the last 40 years. Saleh and his brood spent their time in power dismantling and bankrupting the institutions of the state, consolidating personal power and wealth, fomenting internal conflict, and ignoring the multiple economic and structural crises that have facilitated Yemen becoming the world’s worst humanitarian situation today...The deal is also a recipe for continued violence, as it fails to address the local grievances that caused the present civil war, and the new ones that have emerged from it.
Picard argues that the international community must act to prevent the UAE-Saudi-Saleh "Grand Bargain" by reinvigorating the UN's peace process. The US should play a leading roll in pushing the process forward, while also working to sideline spoilers and make the negotiations more inclusive.
Picard offers five recommendations to strengthen the peace process: ban former high-ranking officials from holding office in the future; provide opportunities for self-determination in Southern Yemen; investigate violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, and hold perpetrators accountable; end high officials' immunity from prosecution from prior crimes; and create a national reconstruction corps, so those who would otherwise be recruited to fight can earn a living rebuilding Yemen.