A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Salih: I Didn't Mean it, Really!

Yesterday, Yemen's beleaguered President ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Salih took the traditional route in explaining the demonstrations against him: he blamed the US and Israel. After the White House criticized the comments, and perhaps on reflecting that the US is, right now, just about his Best Friend Remaining (unlike Libya, Al-Qa‘ida really is active in Yemen) , today he called the US National Security Adviser to apologize for any "misunderstanding" his remarks might have caused. Like so many other leaders who've held the same job since well back in the last century (1978 in Salih's case, longer than Mubarak but less than Qadhafi), he may still tend to forget that the 24/7 satellite news channels, the Internet, and Twitter aren't going to let you say one thing to your domestic audience and another to your foreign allies, like you could get away with back in the good old days.

And now, there are reports that Salih has agreed to a plan that would call for him to step down by the end of the year.

I'm sure the opposition will remember that he has changed his mind before (he promised not to run in 2006, was "persuaded" to change his mind, and won 77% of the vote), so I'm not sure a promise about what he'll do 10 months from now will sell to the folks in the streets, even if he's sold it to the opposition parties.

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