Foreign Policy Blogs

The Yemeni Revolution: the Opposition and Saleh to sign GCC Agreement

An envoy of officials from both the Yemeni government and the Opposition are said to be traveling to Riyadh on Wednesday in order to sign the agreement brokered by the GCC.

Sultan al-Barakani who is the deputy secretary of the People’s Congress, the Presidential party, has said that the government had indeed “received an invitation from Saudi Arabia to sign in Riyadh an agreement on the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative”.

He added that ambassadors from the United States of America, The European Union, the Gulf States and the United Nations would attend and act as witness.

Under the agreement Saleh, the decades long President would transfer his power to his deputy and present his official resignation within a month. A newly formed government would have the obligation to hold presidential elections in the nation no latter then 60 days after Saleh departure.

The deal also includes total legal immunity for Saleh, his family and close aides.

Previous Concerns

Only a few days ago, just as the proposal was being discussed by the members of the Opposition, many attending felt that it gave Saleh too much leeway. Under the GCC proposal, a national coalition government would be formed to ensure a smooth and democratic transition of power. In essence it would allow former members of Saleh’s government to maintain somewhat their grip on power.

Others felt that Saleh could very well manipulate the Parliament which is under his influence, into refusing his resignation.

However, Mohamed Qahtan, spokesman of the JMP, announced yesterday that the Opposition had accepted the proposal after much deliberation. This is what he had to say on the matter: “We have given our final accord to the (GCC) initiative after having received assurances from our Gulf brothers and American and European friends on our objections to certain clauses in the plan”.


But if politicians have decided to oversight the recent violence by according the President the much coveted immunity from prosecution; those who have for the past 3 months taken the streets of Yemen hostage, are seeing things much differently.

For one, they do not recognize the Common Forum or Opposition as their legitimate representation.

Because this Revolution was always about a democratic movement and its momentum purely organic, it lacked political leadership. The main issue lays in the fact that those veteran politicians do not truly represent the anti-government protesters; their aims are quite different. As one wants to see things go back to normal, the other wants the old guard gone.

Secondly, the majority of Yemenis are demanding the immediate departure of Ali Abdullah Saleh. The deep mistrust they harbor for the dictator is so engrained in their minds that they feel that any delay is proof of his plotting.

International Community

The British Foreign Office Minister, Alistair Burt has urged all parties to “seize this opportunity and finalize an agreement,” adding: “The GCC initiative represents our best hope for a constructive and peaceful way forward.”

The US has backed the GCC plan strongly as it feared that further unrest in the Arabic peninsula nation would lead to a resurgence of Al Qaeda terrorist activities.

The UK on its part, has warned against the economic, social and political challenges that Yemen now face, and urged for speedy reforms which would offer the nation the change it is clamming for.

But if now, the US and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia appear to have a short term common goal when it comes to Yemen; both countries have a very different long term vision. If the US would like the nation to strive economically and by that bring about stability within the Region, the Saudis have mixed feelings. One has to remember that if Yemen was to utilize its resources efficiently and develop the port of Aden it would give this nation an incredible commercial advantage on its neighbors….And this could be seen as a threat to Saudi Arabia hegemony.

So now that Yemen is at a historical crossroad, we will know soon whether Saleh will according to his political style “change his mind” again, or if he will bow to international pressure.

In any case the pressure is on, as hard line demonstrators have threatened to march towards the Presidential Palace. It is not clear if the Youth Movement will accept the GCC proposal once it’s signed or if it will lead to more protests.



Catherine Shakdam

Although French by birth, my studies and my professional life led me to live for many years in the United Kingdom and in the Middle East.
Armed with a Master in Finance, a Bachelor degree in Psychology and 5 languages under my belt I managed to make my way through the maze of the Trading World of Wall Street, as an equity consultant. However, my interest for Politics and the Middle East gave me the necessary push to launch me as a "writer". Since then, I have voiced my opinions via my Blog and various publications such as the Middle East Post, the Guardian UK, and now Foreign Policy Association. I currently live in London.