Saudi Arabia’s state expenditures for this year are an impressive 41% over the original budget. The Saudis have been spending money as only the Saudis (and Americans) can–buying weapons, giving mass foreign aid grants, and shoveling money into their population. Despite this, the state will run a surplus of nearly $100 billion dollars. It’s all a paradoxical consequence of the Arab Spring. The Saudis had been very pessimistically budgeting for $60 a barrel oil (a price unseen for regional index Dubai Crude since mid-2009), even though it was at $90 a barrel at the beginning of the year. Then the uprisings happened, investors got nervous, Libya stopped producing and the market tightened up. Oil hit $120 at the end of April. The Saudis are suddenly flush with money and more able than ever to push counterrevolution and stabilization wherever they please. That’s the paradox: the more unstable the Middle East becomes, the more regimes there are able to fight instability.
Tag Archives: yemen
Rumors are flying that injured Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh may have left Yemen to receive medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, along with several other regime figures injured in the Hashid confederation’s attack on his palace. If this is the case, it is almost certainly the end of his rule. Saudi Arabia is a classic destination for deposed dictators–Tunisia’s ex-President Ben Ali being the latest, Uganda’s Idi Amin being the most (in)famous. Saleh could be using his injuries as an excuse to step down, or he could have been injured so severely in yesterday’s attacks that he genuinely needs treatment.
It is safe to say that the situation in Yemen has turned into a war. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been injured in shelling of his palace, and several of his guards and associates were killed. The shelling apparently came at the hands of Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar’s Hashid tribal confederation, which has been openly fighting the government for about twelve days. This is a disaster for Yemen’s young liberals, who continue to pay the price of revolt with their lives, yet who are now stuck on the sidelines as the Hashid and the Presidential Guard duke it out. Yemen’s old constitution, though Saleh ignored it, could have been used to accommodate new political forces–indeed, this was part of the plan the GCC pushed. If the Hashid confederation takes over, there is no guarantee that they will not attempt to create some new system. The best hope for the liberals is to remain organized and perhaps even active as the tribes fight the government. Once the physical battles have been settled, the political battles will begin, and their organization would give them an “army” to be reckoned with, one that the post-conflict power structure will be eager to accommodate or at least co-opt.
Yemen has spent the last week on the edge of civil war as forces opposing troubled President Ali Abdullah Saleh have taken a more forceful path. The Gulf Cooperation Council’s attempts to negotiate Saleh’s withdrawal have stalled after Saleh used a technicality to back out of the deal. The powerful Hashid tribal confederation began fighting Saleh’s Republican Guards in Sanaa after Saleh ordered the arrest of the Hashid leader, Sheikh al-Ahmar. Fighting raged for several days as the tribe’s men struggled to keep their leader out of Saleh’s hands. The tribes and government have since reached a truce, though reports suggest it is not being kept very well. The tribal confederations are a major source of power in Yemeni society, and any national leader must find a way to incorporate them into the power structure. No Yemeni leader has ever done this perfectly. Saleh’s loss of his own tribe to the opposition, regardless of that tribe’s importance, is a very bad sign for his government; that the Hashid are also one of Yemen’s largest confederations put Saleh in a critical situation.
News has emerged in the past several days that Yemen’s longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh is to resign within 30 days, receive immunity for his crimes, and hand over power to a caretaker government pending elections within 60 days. Protesters are on the streets throughout Yemen today in condemnation of the deal, which has not met the wishes of many that he be tried for the many excesses of his regime, including the killings of many opponents since the uprising began. It is indeed true that the Yemeni people are denied some justice by this plan, but politics is, as they say, the art of the possible, and it should have been clear to all that Saleh would not leave willingly without immunity.