Saturday, April 16, 2011

Interview with William O. Beeman--PressTV - 'Yemenis reject any Saudi interference'

Interview with William O. Beeman

PressTV - 'Yemenis reject any Saudi interference'

Press TV has interviewed Professor William Beeman, the chairman of anthropology department of the University of Minnesota, who acknowledges that the people of Yemen are saying "No" to any interference from Saudi Arabia.

Press TV: Regarding the two-week deadline, which has been presented by the Yemeni opposition for President Saleh to leave his post - Do you think he will meet this deadline and step down?

William Beeman: I think that President Saleh has no intention of stepping down voluntarily. He's going to have to be forced out of office. What we find in Sana'a is that we have pro-Saleh demonstrations taking place, but anywhere outside of the centre of Sana'a you have anti-government demonstrations going on. We don't have good information about the northern parts of the country. But I think President Saleh thinks he is going to be able to remain in power.

Press TV: You say that Saleh has no intentions of quitting and he will have to be forced out - Are these protests we are seeing all over Yemen enough to accomplish that? Or are we talking about something bigger that is needed?

William Beeman: It's an interesting question because it's not clear who may be helping the opposition with resources etc. President Saleh has government resources at his beck and call including part of the military that is still supporting him.

As you know, General Ammar has defected to the opposition and we are waiting to get more information about General Ammar and who may have promised him some leadership position perhaps in a newly formed government or what ties he has with resources external to Yemen. The resources for the opposition are not well known right now.

Press TV: Concerning the Saudi-backed initiative that is supposed to take place next week - it has been rejected by the people of Yemen. We were talking to a journalist this week and he said that this proposal is not for the opposition or the people to accept or reject, it's been made directly to Saleh. Considering the influence Saudi Arabia has wielded in the past in Yemen - Do you think Saleh would accept a proposal by them?

William Beeman: The details of such a proposal would be interesting to know. One of the things the Saudi government wants to ensure is that there is stability in Yemen because the Saudis see Yemen and the people in Yemen as potential threats. If Saleh goes they will want assurance that there is going to be a stable pro-Saudi government that takes his place.

And the reason the opposition has expressed a rejection of a plan, whatever it may consist of, is that they don't want the Saudis controlling their government, or their destiny. And that goes for interference from the US as well.

There is a classic mistake that nations make when they are dealing with other nations in the midst of revolution, and we've seen it again and again, is that the people are not interested in outside interference.

Press TV: Can the revolution reach fruition without influence from foreign powers? We see in Egypt where there was a powerful and viable institution, the military, which has a lot of sway politically, but we're not seeing that in Yemen.

William Beeman: That's exactly right; we don't know what military forces they have. Additionally, there are many Yemenis that live outside of Yemen and the possibility of them supplying aid to the opposition is there. The question is - Are they able to transfer funds or supply arms? That's an interesting question, so I would look to the Yemeni community abroad. A number of millions of Yemenis are not in the country at present and they are opposed to the rule of President Saleh. This element needs to be considered by analysts as well as people inside Yemen.

Press TV: With the Saudi mediation efforts - Can we expect Saudi Arabia to be an honest broker considering what it is doing in Bahrain against pro-democracy protesters? And also, would Saudi Arabia take into account its own strategic interests first in ensuring stability over what the people of Yemen want?

William Beeman: Well, Saudi Arabia itself is not in any way a democracy; it doesn't have a constitution and the Saudi royal family rules by decree. So there is no democracy in Saudi Arabia and the idea that they are trying to foster a democratic state in Yemen is strange given that they don't believe in it for their own people.

It is a question of stability. We forget that the family of Osama Bin Laden comes from Yemen. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based in Yemen - it's not a very big or very important group, but nevertheless it is enough to worry the Saudi royal family because the principal target for al-Qaeda is not the US or Europeans - It's the Saudi royal family. They would like to see the Saudi royal family completely eliminated from Saudi Arabia and the Saudi royal family knows this.

An unstable Yemen is therefore a potential source of real danger for the government of Saudi Arabia and that's why they want to broker a deal that will bring people to power in Yemen that they will have some control over. And they have had through the US control of President Saleh.