Detoxing Yemen’s UN Resolution 2014

By James Gundun – Washington, D.C.

Over three weeks have elapsed since the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed resolution 2014. Addressing Yemen’s 10-month revolution, the resolution calls for Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign a power-sharing agreement drafted by the Saudi-bankrolled Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The White House quickly heralded the UNSC’s “unambiguous signal to President Saleh that he must respond to the aspirations of the Yemeni people by transferring power immediately.”

Except resolution 2014 is opposed by Saleh and protesters alike.

Not every part of the resolution is rejected by Yemen’s mass of revolutionaries; many clauses outside of the GCC are welcomed, but several key terms remain cloaked in ambiguity. The notion of an immediate transfer of power conceals the GCC’s extended time-frame, which encourages Saleh to remain in office seven months after its introduction. The initiative stipulates a 30-day grace period after transferring executive authority to his vice president, Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, followed by a two-month transitional period. Hadi would select an oppositional figure to form a “unity” government with Saleh’s ruling party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), while Hadi would oversee Saleh’s security apparatus. His son, nephews and half-brothers would retain their posts atop various agencies until an election is held. 

The UN itself adheres to no time-line or sense of urgency, only scheduling a review after 30 days. As the GCC’s initiative prolongs Saleh’s rule, so too will resolution 2014.

Beyond the prospect of a delayed power transfer and “unity” government, the GCC’s immunity clause has accumulated a hoard of condemnation from Yemen’s revolutionaries. Although resolution 2014 calls for all perpetrators of violence to be held accountable, it essentially requests that Saleh’s regime investigate and police itself. The GCC’s immunity clause was left intentionally ambiguous to mask its controversial nature (the UN Human Rights Office warned against its ratification). Even more telling, U.S. military support and activities inside the country remain ongoing. Immunity wasn’t offered to Saleh’s family alone, but to conceal the training of counter-terrorism units that ultimately deployed against peaceful protesters.

The UN’s unanimous decision did transmit a clear signal to Saleh and to Yemen’s revolutionaries. The strongman believes, somewhat justifiably, that he can make global powers dance to his tune. Yemen’s Coordinating Council of the Youth Revolution of Change (CCYRC) warned days later, “The august body of the United Nations was coaxed into believing that the treacherous document called the GCC initiative is the only solution to get Yemen out of the current political debacle. Nothing is further from the truth.”

Nobel laureate Tawakel Karman hoped to shine some clarity on the UN’s actions during a recent trip stateside. After failing to block resolution 2014 through street protests and a meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Yemen’s preeminent female activist traveled to Washington for consultations with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and House Speaker John Boehner. Rumors began to float new legislation based on data from a Congressional visit, despite the fact that any U.S. bill will shadow Saleh’s concept of a transition. Karman blasted the Obama administration’s undying support for the GCC’s initiative, but U.S policy remained unchanged after her meetings.

Having put on her diplomatic face for Clinton, the Nobel laureate waited several days before dropping a rhetorical bomb in The Guardian:

“Perhaps the most basic error of the international community is to describe what is happening in Yemen as a political crisis and not a revolution,” Karman wrote last week. “The Yemenis insist it is – not by words only, but with their blood, which the regime continues to shed.”

Western and Gulf officials recently played up rumors of an imminent signing by Eid al-Adha, a “one week” tactic employed for the last three months, and continue to hint at a signing in Riyadh. A “financial freeze” has been introduced not as sincere punishment, but to force a resolution under the GCC’s terms. Although Saleh insists that he will obey the UN’s favorable resolution – meaning he won’t – the international community must edit the document to reflect Yemen’s revolution. The GCC’s initiative within resolution 2014 requires immediate clarification; its immunity clause must be removed in accordance with international law. Karman has spearheaded the popular demand for an ICC warrant, and even the oppositional Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) now rejects immunity for Saleh and his inner circle. Involved diplomats contend that the clause is needed to lure him out of power, but this argument has demonstrably failed to produce Saleh’s exit.

“The best thing the Yemenis can do is to arrest him and put him on trial,” said spokesman Mohammed al-Qahtan.

Yemen’s election cycle must also be scheduled to favor the rising civil movement, not Saleh’s party and the unrepresentative JMP. Mainstream analysts generally argue that snap elections provide the only exit to Yemen’s “political crisis,” however this scenario leads to unstable outcomes: a compromised election or the retrenching of traditional political lines. Yemen’s popular coalitions require at least six months to organize new parties, in line with Tunisia and Egypt’s election schedules. Forcing a poll within 2-3 months (or weeks) is a blatant attempt to manipulate the results.

Furthermore, Saleh’s GPC intends to select Hadi as its candidate for transitional president, a move that aligns with Washington’s personal grooming. The ruling party cannot be allowed to field a candidate that has served as Saleh’s proxy throughout Yemen’s revolution. Hadi staunchly defends his president, at one point saying “he is part of solving the problems in Yemen,” and recently returned from the U.S. with a familiar promise: "He will sign the Gulf initiative and the mechanism for its operation in the near future."

Yemen’s revolutionaries have witnessed their struggle disappear behind a variety of competing narratives: al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a tribal hijacking, civil war. The international hijacking of Yemen’s revolution is no less significant. Here all veto wielding members of the UNSC have united behind the GCC’s illegitimate proposal, advancing regime alternation over regime change. Political negotiations remain shrouded in back-room contacts between Saleh’s regime, the JMP and major foreign powers, freezing Yemenis out of their own future.

UN resolution 2014 must be purified before its implementation. As is, the document would poison Yemen’s revolution and commit a flagrant abuse of international law.

– James Gundun is a political scientist and counterinsurgency analyst. His blog, The Trench, covers the underreported areas of U.S. foreign policy. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealistChannel.

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