[Dehai-WN] csmonitor.com: Will Yemen's fierce fighting push protesters to take up arms?

[Dehai-WN] csmonitor.com: Will Yemen's fierce fighting push protesters to take up arms?

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 2011 16:27:29 +0200

Will Yemen's fierce fighting push protesters to take up arms?

After three days of rocket attacks, shelling, and shooting that have killed
60, some worry Yemen's protesters - who have so far used sticks and Molotov
cocktails - may take up conventional arms.

By <http://www.csmonitor.com/About/Contact-Us-Feedback> Ariel Zirulnick,
Staff writer / September 20, 2011

A third day of fierce fighting in
<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Yemen> Yemen's capital has pushed the
death toll above 60, with protesters reportedly being killed and injured by
rockets, heavy shelling, and machine-gun fire. The fighting, which has been
largely contained to battles between government loyalists and defected
soldiers, has raised concerns that Yemen's largely peaceful protesters could
take up arms in self-defense and push the country into full-blown civil war.

"What has been remarkable is the peaceful nature of the demonstrators. But I
am afraid that you will get a situation where people will start fighting
back," <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Salman+Shaikh> Salman Shaikh,
director of the <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Brookings+Doha+Center>
Brookings Doha Center, told
<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/The+Washington+Post+Company> The
Washington Post.

Another group with the potential to wreak havoc is the large number of
defected soldiers who have so far stayed out of the fighting. Should they
join the soldiers already fighting government forces, the situation could
-political-talks-stall/2011/09/19/gIQAh1U5fK_story_1.html> devolve into a
Libya-like civil war, according to the Post. "It's not two equal forces
fighting it out to the end, but it could be," said
<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Robert+Burrowes> Robert Burrowes,
emeritus professor at the
<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/University+of+Washington> University of
Washington. "I think it could very easily develop into something like

The fighting spread on Tuesday to the neighborhoods of Yemeni government
officials, and rockets and shells rained down on the makeshift protest camp
in <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Sana%27a> Sanaa's Change Square. An
unnamed Yemeni official told the Post that the civilians killed were caught
in crossfire and not deliberately targeted. He also said that the protesters
had been throwing Molotov cocktails.

On Monday, a <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/United+Nations> UN envoy
and a representative of the
<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Gulf+Cooperation+Council> Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional bloc, arrived in Yemen
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14982712> to work out a
transfer of power agreement, the
<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/British+Broadcasting+Corporation> BBC
reports. Regional and international bodies have been trying since the spring
to work out a deal in which Yemen
<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Ali+Abdullah+Saleh> President Ali
Abdullah Saleh, who is recuperating in
<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Saudi+Arabia> Saudi Arabia from a June
assassination attempt, steps down and gives his vice president the authority
to form a national unity government. In exchange, Mr. Saleh and many of his
former officials would receive immunity from prosecution.

Saleh has given his deputy the authority to negotiate on his behalf, but
whether talks will go any further is unclear. The president has backed out
of three previous deals at the last minute, and protesters see this latest
promise to negotiate a deal as yet another stall tactic. Saleh has long
played Yemen's diverse factions against each other, using a
divide-and-conquer strategy to stay in power for 32 years.

Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy writes that Saleh's latest effort to undermine
the unity of those opposed to his rule
en> appears to be working, in part because the
<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/United+States> US and international
community - consumed by Libya, <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Syria>
Syria, and the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN - have lost the sense of
urgency they had early on about pulling Yemen back from the brink.

IN PICTURES: Yemen protests

Even though thousands of incredibly determined and resilient Yemenis
continued to protest regularly, and analysts warned with increasing
desperation that missing the opportunity to bring about a transition would
be a disastrous mistake, the urgency faded away. Indeed,
<http://goo.gl/gaqiP> Saleh's regime counted on that fading external urgency
as part of its strategy of delay and distraction, hoping to outlast,
confuse, divide, and where possible crush the protest movement. Now, Yemenis
are paying for that neglect in blood.

The US, the GCC, the UN, and Yemen's opposition need to push for Saleh to
leave power now and for Yemen to immediately begin a meaningful political
transition. Not in a few months, not in a few years, and not empty promises
of future change which no Yemeni any longer believes.

The US and the international community has left mediation efforts to Saudi
Arabia and the GCC. But Mr. Lynch writes that the GCC has proven that it is
unable to bring about a resolution and the violence has rendered tenets of
the deal - namely immunity from prosecution for Saleh and his officials -
unacceptable to the various facets of the opposition.

With the list of dead and wounded Yemeni civilians growing and rage swelling
across the country, few are likely to be interested in the GCC's deal
granting amnesty to those responsible for a fresh massacre. I agree with
them. One of the most important accomplishments of Libya and of the rapidly
evolving international norms around the Arab uprisings has been the
rejection of impunity for such atrocities, and Saleh's regime should be no

Related stories

ould-be-away-for-months-complicating-transition-plans> Yemen's Saleh could
be away for months, complicating transition plans
igh-how-to-fight-terrorism-in-a-post-Saleh-Yemen> US officials weigh how to
fight terrorism in a post-Saleh Yemen
* Yemen's power struggle


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