|Saleh smiling while signing the GCC initiative on 23 Nov 2011 in Riyadh|
I’ve always wondered whether Saleh’s big smile when signing the GCC initiative was a smile of confidence that “it isn’t over yet” or it was just a smile of arrogance so that he doesn’t look defeated. Saleh’s smile was exactly the same as the one he had on his face 17 years ago when signing the Document of Pledge & Accord on February 1994 with his then-VP Ali Salem Al-Beedh – a deal that Saleh didn’t implement, neither did he have the intention to honor. Knowing his history of deception and maneuver, I was convinced that my first guess was the right one. Saleh never ceases to amaze when it comes to deceiving and finding ways to back off of deals. Sooner than I thought, it was quite obvious that it isn’t over yet but rather a new beginning for a rather bumpier road ahead of Yemen’s revolution. Meetings, speeches and decrees issued by Saleh soon after his return from Saudi after signing the GCC deal were meant to send messages that it was not over yet. The amnesty decree he issued was not meant to pardon anyone but rather to send a clear message to his opponents that he is still in charge. This has become the common theme reflected by Saleh’s media by highlighting everything he does while overshadowing his VP, successor and ‘supposedly’ executive power holder – Abdu Rabu Hadi.
It was clear that Saleh has returned not to oversee the implementation of the GCC initiative as he stated but rather to block the initiative from finding its way to implementation as Saleh never meant to relinquish power according to the GCC initiative but has used it to buy more time and weaken his opponents’ position, a plan which has proved effective and gave Saleh more than eight months so far.
After his return from Saudi, Saleh has felt that he lost a battle but not the whole war so he wanted an action that would enable him to re-claim the next battle, as well as take revenge for all the losses he had incurred. Sadly, the only action that meets the criteria and could help Saleh kill two birds with one stone was a brutal attack on Taiz – the heart of the revolution and its unrelenting inspiration. Taiz has always been the source of opposition and Saleh has always struggled to make mentionable wins in all elections held in Taiz. It was not hidden that Taiz has always been anti-Saleh which in revolutionaries’ dictionary is synonymous to pro-democracy. The choice Saleh made found its way to action by having his tri-aide in Taiz: Head of security – Abdullah Qairan, Republican Guards commander – Murad Al-Awbali, and Commander of brigade 33 - Abdullah Dhab’aan. The three, who still report directly to Saleh in spite of the GCC deal, have acted under direct orders from him and launched a comprehensive war on Taiz by shelling its various civilian neighborhoods. The attacks were indiscriminate and targeted men and women, children and elderly, and even those who belong to the silent or neutral group. Dozens have been killed and hundreds were injured since Saleh’s last return from Saudi as a result of the consistent and indiscriminate attacks on civilian neighborhoods in the city. Reports by several media and news outlets showed the attacks on civilians in Taiz as ‘clashes between forces loyal to Saleh and tribesmen’ which is rather misleading as the civilized city is not tribal and tribes do not exist, unlike many parts of Yemen where tribal existence is dominant. Armed revolution protectors are not tribesmen, nor are they militia as the regime’s media label them. They are simply civilized people who had enough of Saleh’s madness and decided to stand up for what they believe. The name ‘revolution protectors’ in Taiz reflects every patriotic and revolutionary person who felt the pain of the city resulting from the brutal merciless attacks of Saleh’s regime against civilians in Taiz and decided to fight for dignity and protect humanity in the city. The emergence of revolution protectors in Taiz coupled with the determination of the city’s revolutionary protestors have made Saleh’s desire to ‘bringing the city down to its knees’ a far-fetched dream. If anything else, the city that is day and night facing shelling ranging from light to heavy artillery has humiliated Saleh by showing unrelenting determination to oust him and every bit of his regime and make them stand trial for their crimes. It was quite clear that the attacks on Taiz were pure revenge taken by Saleh against the city and its people. Saleh’s spokesmen have in numerous occasions defended the regime’s brutal actions against the city by claiming that government is trying to reclaim control and bring order & stability to the city. While the contents of such statements are unfounded as the city has never gotten out of the regime’s control, however, the idea itself reveals the hatred and revenge desire Saleh has against Taiz. Saleh has lost complete control of several parts of Yemen such as Saadah, Mareb and Al-jawf, yet never fired a bullet against armed tribesmen who took over the control of those cities. In fact, many believe that such a takeover was facilitated by Saleh to create chaos that could help him remain in power. So it is rather a genuine question to ask why Saleh had no problem losing complete control in Saadah, Mareb & Al-Jawf but found it extremely unacceptable to lose even partial control of Taiz? The answer to such a question reveals that it is not a matter of control and order but rather taking revenge against the city that has shaken Saleh’s fragile empire of 33 years old. Day by day, Saleh’s berserk attacks on Taiz have only fueled the revolution and the city’s determination to go all the way till peaceful revolution meets its goals.
Such attacks on Taiz are a clear violation to the much debated and controversial GCC initiative signed by Saleh last month. The attack on Taiz signals the collapse of the GCC deal that Saleh didn’t want to sign in the first place but did it only because he had to after being on the edge of facing sanctions that could have included travel ban and asset freeze. Although reality indicates the deal has died already or might have been born dead to begin with. It is just not pronounced dead yet as political factions that signed the deal including Yemen’s opposition parties JMP are trying to revive it in spite of all the violations the deal has stumbled upon. It is inevitable that more violations and threats to the GCC initiative will be revealed bit by bit by Saleh who apparently is still in control of every aspect of Yemen’s regime and will try to halt the deal and those who caused it to be drafted.
One thing Saleh seems to have in common with Tunisia’s Bin Ali and Egypt’s Mubarak is the inability to understand the people before it is too late. Saleh still doesn’t understand that the will of the people cannot be defied and apparently hasn’t been able to take lessons from Bin Ali’s ‘I Understand you’ and Mubarak’s ‘I realize’ which came too late and became nothing but words history will remember against those dictators. The humiliating end Libya’s Gaddafi faced didn’t seem to have taught Saleh a lesson either as he still thinks that military action can crush the most peaceful revolution. The GCC deal provides an honorable exit for Saleh, an end that doesn't rhyme with his crimes nor does it fall in line with justice and the inevitable laws of karma which indicate that Saleh will undoubtedly hinder the GCC deal - an action that will make him dig his own grave and exist as a dictator with humiliation. Saleh’s attacks on civilians and unreasonable grip on power will undoubtedly shape the inevitable humiliating end he will have as history shows that dictators end in humiliation regardless of any other factors.