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'Yemen unrest makes Saudi uneasy'
Sun, 01 May 2011 20:16:40 GMT
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Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has refused to sign a deal proposed by the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council despite the country's ongoing unrest.

In an interview with Press TV, Peter Rushton, political observer from London, shared his thoughts on the latest developments in the Middle Eastern country. The following is a transcript of the interview:

Press TV: When Saleh refused to sign the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council's proposal, the opposition said they suspected this all the time because they know Saleh. A large part of the opposition says they will not accept this agreement because of the immunity aspect. What is your comment?

Rushton: I think just as the people on the ground know Saleh, some of the countries involved in brokering the deal know Saleh as well. In particular, the Saudis know Saleh very well. They have no excuse for not knowing him. They have been funneling support for years. I am sure that they had no sincere interest in seeing him removed completely.

Press TV: Do you think this was just an effort to buy him more time?

Rushton: If we are speaking of buying him more time, we are speaking about the possibility of dividing the opposition forces. Even the thirty days would have allowed him time to play the usual dirty tricks of divide and rule; the usual dirty tricks of inciting trouble on the streets, so that he can then turn around and say “I am needed as a force for stability; I am needed to prevent terrorism; I am needed to prevent chaos;” all the usual things that he has said as a puppet of the West to continue to get Western financial and military support.

There is something else going on here, where he does not even want to start off this process, at least not for the time being. Do not forget the issue of immunity from prosecution. There may be issues to do with hiding some of his games over the last few decades; satisfying some of the people within his network of patronage and corruption; making sure that people from that network are also avoiding being prosecuted and of course, from his point of view, making absolutely certain he will not face any criminal charges. These are the priorities as far as Saleh is concerned and we can expect any number of dirty tricks in between now and the expiry of any deadline on negotiations.

Press TV: What role do you think the international community must play at this point in time?

Rushton: I think they must now attack Saleh at the point that he cares about most, and that is to attack and track down his financial assets and the assets of his family and supporters around the world.

Press TV: In your perspective, why has that not been done already?

Rushton: I think that indicates a lack of sincerity on the part of Washington and Riyadh in terms of wanting seriously to crack down on Saleh and seriously move toward a resolution of this.

The fundamental issue is he has been their man for a very long time. At this stage they are not serious about wanting to get rid of him. Certainly they are not serious about wanting him to face justice. And it would seem that just as he is playing for time, it may well be that Washington and Riyadh are happy to play for time, and hope that they can get some sort of post-Saleh solution that will be equally acceptable to them; a similar type of rule without Saleh himself, or Saleh ruling at arm's length while not officially being in power. It seems that the last thing Washington and Riyadh are interested in is certainly a serious accounting for the crimes of the Saleh era, because of course they are themselves implicated in those crimes as the people who have backed Saleh for so many decades.

So if Saleh were to be put in the dock, there would be a sense in which Washington and Riyadh would inevitably be seen as being in the dock alongside him. We think from the way that Washington has dealt with some of its puppets ... that sometimes rather than allowing them to face trial, some nasty fate occurs to these puppets if they absolutely have to lose power.

Washington and Riyadh certainly do not want to move down the legal route; to move down the sort of route that would inevitably force Saleh from power; because they fear the glare of publicity; they fear a serious historical accounting of the Saleh era.

Press TV: Do you think the Arab countries of the (P)GCC were trying to come up with another proposal or they are out of the picture in general? Do you think Saleh's refusal to sign the proposal has been a slap in the face for Saudi Arabia?

Rushton: I think it is certainly a serious loss of face at the moment, because although they clearly, as I said earlier, have no interest in a serious resolution of what was going on in Yemen, they certainly have no interest in seeing Saleh brought to trial. Their interest was in playing a role as a supposed peacekeeper; as a supposed regional power broker. And it does not reflect very well on a regional power broker if a great ceremony has been set up to sign a peace agreement, and then it all falls through at the last moment.

It is clearly a substantial loss of face for the Saudis, but I think they will have greater worries than that, because over the next few days we will see whether this abandonment of the peace process leads to further radicalization of opposition on the ground in Yemen. If it does lead to that further radicalization then the Saudis will have a great deal more to worry about than a loss of diplomatic face. They will be worried about what actually happens in their own territory.

Press TV: How do you think this could affect what is actually going on in Saudi Arabia?

Rushton: I think there is very real likelihood of this situation spilling over into Saudi Arabia, because Saudi which was once seen as an absolutely solid ally of Washington in the region now clearly has enormous fault lines within its own regime; enormous fault lines within its own society that the Saudi regime has been struggling to resolve; and in fact in the last year or so has looked as though it is systemically incapable of resolving those fault lines.

The likelihood is that what has happened in Yemen is going to further open up those fault lines within Saudi Arabia with Yemen being right on their border, and the specific events in Yemen having spillover effects... Saudi Arabia now has a system that can no longer pursue at least the efficient repression that it was able to carry out in the past. They are now still trying to be a repressive regime, but no longer able to implement that repression with the efficiency that would work for so many decades. I think both in the specific sense and in the general sense the Saudis will be very worried.

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