Unlike the King of Bahrain, president Saleh of Yemen is not on the save the dictator list even in Saudi Arabia. I doubt that the U.S. will rush in either or Sarkozy with his fancy jets.
For his part Saleh has turned to Saud Arabia to mediate an end to the crisis. Saleh had been warned that the crisis could be turned into a civil war now that the military is divided.
Saudi Arabia now wants to see a smooth transition of power away from Saleh. No doubt the lead protesters are right to be worried that their revolution will be hijacked by such key figures as a general who was just a few days ago helping with the crackdown on protesters. The Saudis no doubt would like to see the protests end and an interim government steered by generals of the old regime and selected traditionalist tribes some of whom may be on the Saudi payrolls.
What they do not want to happen is a situation as in Libya where there is out and out civil war. A Saudi analayst said:”For Saudi Arabia, the end results for any mediation will be to guarantee stability and a smooth transition of power,” “The kingdom will not fight for Saleh … We have very bad experiences with him. The man’s survival makes no difference.” With key tribes and generals joining the opposition the Saudis are ready to see a deal and transition government led in fact by a section of the old guard they hope.
The Saudi-backed al-Arabiya channel, which had played down the Bahrain revolt, on Tuesday used the headline “Change in Yemen,” instead of “Turmoil in Yemen,” to describe the protests. What a different one word change makes!
Abdullah al-Askar, deputy chairman in the foreign affairs committee of the Shura Council, the consultative body in Saudi Arabia said:””The situation has escalated and there is a consensus among Yemeni protesters and army, even his own tribe, to oust Saleh,”
While most Al Qaeda have been driven out of Saudi Arabia there are many in some tribal areas of Yemen. The Saudis are concerned that they cross back into Saudi Arabia to undertake terror attacks. The Saudi consider Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula a threat to the kingdom.
In spite of conflicts with Saleh the Saudis joined in a campaign against northern Houthi rebels and given considerable aid to Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s deputy interior minister, told US diplomats in 2009 that Yemen had become a “dangerous failed state” and that cash assistance to the government tended to end up in Swiss bank accounts, according to leaked diplomatic cables from Wikileaks.Western analysts say Riyadh has also maintained close ties with Yemeni tribes, some of whom are also on Saudi payroll, as well as with army chiefs.
The Gulf Cooperation Council is mediating in the Yemen crisis. As with the U.S. in Libya, the Saudis would prefer a group to take action if needed rather than engaging in any unilateral action. As with Iran supporting protesters in Bahrain, so the Saudis support protesters in Yemen but neither country would allow protests agains their own governments!