As the anti-government protests continue in Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh has pledged to protect the protesters and announced a transition to a parliamentary system through a referendum on a new constitution in 2011.
Press TV interviewed political analyst Tawfiq al-Jarrad from Damascus on the latest developments in the Middle Eastern nation. The following is a rush transcript of the interview.
Press TV: With the unfolding situation in Yemen as we see extreme violence against the protesters, what do you make of the president’s recent announcement?
Jarrad: Just to consider the main points of Mr. Abdullah Saleh’s statement on the state television this morning, he declared that he is going to have a parliamentary-elected government, and he is still addicted to his previous promises that he will stay until 2013. Therefore, the question here is going to be: Who has refrained Mr. Abdullah Saleh to carry out such a promised parliamentary government election before this time? I do not think that there was something that had hindered him, but keeping him staying upon his chair as if he were a dictator for a long time of life. When he says that he will keep constitutional amendment under referendum, why did he not take such a step before?
Anyhow, in conclusion we can say that he is going to extend the period of time that he is going to stay on his chair until the time comes when he can declare that the uprising has been ended, and therefore, he has done what he has promised the people with his justified claims.
Press TV: It looks like the bigger the protests have been becoming, the more violent the government has been responding. Reports show the government has even used nerve gas — which is banned according to the international law — against the protesters. Do you think despite the announcement, Saleh will continue the approach of violence against the protesters?
Jarrad: I do not think Mr. Saleh is going to fulfill what he has promised. He is going to stay until the end of his period — 2013. He will not be able to change the tribal system he is ruling according to its basis. Therefore, other promises have been made by him, which is just a lip service to his people to declare that he has finished the uprising, and the uprising has been ended by the will of the protesters and not by the government oppression.
So I think the staying of Mr. Saleh in such a position will conclude in the (Persian) Gulf neighbors of Yemen, mainly Saudi Arabia, accusing him of threatening their (Persian) Gulf security, because Yemen is looking at one of the entrances of the Indian Ocean. According to the new political analysis, the oceans and the seas are making policy in the world. How can he do such a thing while his country looks over Bab al-Mandeb or the entrance of the Indian Ocean? Such an importance is similar to Hormoz Strait, where 40 percent of world oil product is daily passing. As we can say that Hormoz Strait is ruling the world, we can also say Bab al-Mandeb is ruling the Eastern part of Africa. Therefore, while Mr. Saleh promises to fulfill what he promises, the question still remains: Who has refrained him from carrying out what he was thinking of? There is no answer to such a question, except saying that he has spent some 32 years in his office and he is looking over just to keep on as long as he can.
Press TV: Although we have seen people killed in Yemen, we have not received any kind of harsh response or condemnation — so to speak — from the United States administration, which is considered a major ally of Yemen in terms of their cooperation in the fight against terrorism. What do you think of the stances taken by the West, specifically the United States?
Jarrad: The United States is looking at one important point: how to keep its hand over Yemen, because Yemen is facing the entrance of the Indian Ocean, where the United States has a lot of bases. The Americans claim that Al Qaida is available there, and the United States will tackle this problem with no harshness. But the question is who is going to keep the (Persian) Gulf security. This is the main point. It is the (Persian) Gulf’s security, not how long Mr. Saleh is going to stay. You can change all the chess board, but not geography, which means seas. Seas make politics in that area.
Let me go back to February 1968, when the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson declared that his country is going to leave or to withdraw its presence in the (Persian) Gulf area. At that time, the category of (Persian) Gulf being threatened had become a prominent subject of the politics of that area. The majority of the people are looking to see how they can put an end to racial discrimination they are exposed to. In Bahrain, for instance, the minority is ruling over the majority, which is contradictory to all aspects of democracy. The royal family there must have a dialog with the majority. They must reach what we can call a compromise. The problem is how they are going to end discrimination; how serious they are to find a solution for this problem.