The wave hits Yemen

The wave hits Yemen

While the main story today is obviously the fast-developing and increasingly violent chaos on the streets of Cairo, there’s also a major development in Yemen. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power since 1978, has announced that he will step down at the end of his term in 2013. Recent amendments to the constitution would have allowed him to run for another two 10-year terms.

"I won’t seek to extend my presidency for another term or have my son inherit it," Saleh told the parliament.

Saleh has earlier tried to defuse simmering tensions in Yemen by raising salaries for the army and by denying opponents’ claims he plans to install his son as his successor.

Like Egypt and Tunisia before it, the offer has not placated the demonstrators on the streets of Sanaa, and a new mass protest has been called for Thursday.

While he has not always been the most stalwart of U.S. allies — supporting Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, for instance — Saleh has been publicly supportive of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts and has been a major recipient of U.S. aid since the 2000 USS Cole bombing. 

With Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali toppled, Mubarak and Saleh promising to step down, and Jordan’s King Abdullah rearranging the deck chairs, the question now seems less whether the popular uprising in the Arab world will spread, than who’s next. Keep an eye on Khartoum, where daily Internet-organized demonstrations have been held since Sunday. Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, already weakened politically by the impending separation of the southern half of his country, has clamped down hard, arresting more than 100 of the demonstrators.