Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Ever wonder what the opposition in Yemen wants?: Here, they’ll tell you

Topping off our all-guest-column Thursday, here’s the news from Yemen. By Sorina Ioana Crisan Best Defense bureau of Yemeni affairs Tawakkol Karman, founder of Women Journalists Without Chains and avid leader of the Yemen uprising, started the dialogue on the future of Yemen by first thanking the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the ...

Sallam/Flickr
Sallam/Flickr
Sallam/Flickr

Topping off our all-guest-column Thursday, here's the news from Yemen.

By Sorina Ioana Crisan
Best Defense bureau of Yemeni affairs

Topping off our all-guest-column Thursday, here’s the news from Yemen.

By Sorina Ioana Crisan
Best Defense bureau of Yemeni affairs

Tawakkol Karman, founder of Women Journalists Without Chains and avid leader of the Yemen uprising, started the dialogue on the future of Yemen by first thanking the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for organizing a live video-conference that allows the "revolutionary voices" to be heard in Washington, D.C.

Karman described the current situation in Yemen as a consequence of the fact that "our parties arrived at a deadlock when it came to reforming the regime…[Hence], the only solution was to depose the regime."

The anti-government protests, fiercely supported by the youth, united Yemen to see that that "there is a common problem that transcends all problems," said Shadi Khosruf, spokesperson for the committee tasked with drafting the Youth Revolution Document. Khosruf further argued that this "is the first time that one can see cohesiveness among tribes, political parties, and the rest."

How will the transition occur? Mohammed Qattan, Head of the Executive Council of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islah) and current spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties, initially offered a brief answer: "the mediation terms were started by the U.S. ambassador to the region." When asked the question again, Qattan said that President Saleh needs to give all power to the Vice-President, who should then achieve two major goals: (1) determine the role of the government (i.e.: accept or change the status-quo) and (2) facilitate a dialogue between all the existing parties, with the exception of terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, and ultimately help draft a "roadmap" to creating a new civic state that will be supported by the international community.  

With many members of the General People’s Congress (GPC) having already joined the revolution, Sheich Mohammed Abu Lahoum, former head of the Foreign Relations Department of the GPC and founding member of a new political party, believes that "there will not be a problem for all parties to work together. A new Yemen will be a good partner. It cannot be as bad as it has been in the past. We will see a stable country that will assure all international partners that a new Yemen will be a safe nation." To achieve this state, more pressure needs to be placed on President Ali Abdullah Saleh. "The sooner he leaves, the better it will be for him and for Yemen," argued Lahoum. 

Overall, Qattan and Lahoum chose to focus their remarks on the idea that a new Yemen will have a brighter future, as it will benefit from better relations with the West. Karman and Khosruf focused more on the domestic level. In their view, the end of the current regime will lead to the creation of a government that will no longer exclude the youth nor any other Yemeni groups. Furthermore, the latter believe that President Saleh should be pressured to resign through sanctions imposed by the international community (i.e., freeze all presidential assets accumulated while in office). "We need your help and assistance in building this new state," concluded Karman.

If the Yemen uprising brings to the resignation of President Saleh and the creation of a new government, it is unclear whether the youth groups will be satisfied or disappointed when they will see some of the old political figures still in power. How much does one differentiate between the President Saleh, his regime, and members of the current leading party?

Sorina Ioana Crisan is a former CNAS intern who is now starting a website intended to facilitate communication between graduate students at different universities, starting in the field of international relations.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1
Tag: Yemen

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