President Saleh refused to attend ceremony in Saudi Arabia

The US, EU and Gulf States desperately want an end to the mass opposition movement in Yemen. Imperialism understands that President Saleh’s days are numbered and they intervened to offer the official opposition seats in a new transitional government in Yemen.

Meanwhile, the mass movement in Yemen continues with demonstrations in Aden, Bayda, Sana’a and other cities on Monday 2 May. ‘Youth of the revolt reject the Gulf initiative’, read banners in the capital, Sanaa.

A ceremony planned in Saudi Arabia, on Sunday 1 May, where President Ali Abduallh Saleh and opposition leaders were due to sign an agreement, was suspended. Saleh refused to attend the ceremony and said he would only approve the agreement, but not sign it.

This supposed triumph for Foreign ministers from the Gulf States and representatives from the Saudi regime, the EU and the US, ended in fiasco. Imperialism had put severe pressure on selected opposition leaders to accept the agreement, which meant that Saleh should resign within 30 days. The opposition would nominate ministers for a ‘transitional government’, to be agreed with the ruling party.

The official opposition was already under heavy criticism from activists, who have been in constant demonstrations for three months. Young activists declared that the protest wave could continue even if the agreement was signed. The main demand of the mass protests, with 100,000s of participants, has been for president Saleh’s departure. The regime responded with a mixture of ‘concessions’ and brutal repression. About 150 protesters were killed, so far, by the regime’s security forces. On Wednesday April 27, 12 people were killed and over 100 injured in the capital Sanaa, after government troops opened fire. But the repression has not been able to quell the revolt.

The intention of the agreement was proved directly, when the military, last week, attacked demonstrators in Aden using the argument that protests were no longer allowed. As in Tunisia and Egypt, the counter-revolution is constantly testing if they can ‘clean’ the demonstration squares.

Gulf State hypocrisy

The US and EU allowed the Gulf States to front the ‘democracy transition initiative’. The hypocrisy of this is revealed by the fact that democratic rights do not exist in any of the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council - the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. All regimes used similar brutal repression as in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait sent troops to smash mass protests in Bahrain.

President Saleh has been a loyal ally of the United States since the mid-1990s and especially during the "war on terror". The White House has largely been mildly critical of the repression during the protests. Now Saleh will try and use the attention surrounding Osama Bin Laden’s death to link the mass protests to al-Qaeda.

But the movement in Yemen, which began at the end of last year and took on great momentum after the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, is a challenge also to the right-wing political Islamism that bin Laden stood for. The demands for democratic rights, against privileges and the distribution of oil wealth etc, can only be implemented by a democratic mass movement that also challenges capitalism, imperialism and the feudal conditions which exist in Yemen.

Instead of a settlement, the gap has grown between the parties which are willing to come to terms with Saleh, and demonstrators on the streets. The revolutionary mass movement split the ruling class and military officers, politicians, religious leaders, etc. said they have gone over to the protesters. Saleh’s regime is significantly weakened, but the movement cannot trust the leaders hand-picked by the Gulf States and the United States. Mass democratic bodies must be built from below, in the squares and in the workplaces. Yemen needs a party of workers and poor people, with a clear internationalist, democratic socialist programme.

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