In Saudi Brokered Deal, Yemen President Is Next To Offer To Step Down In Exchange For Immunity

The WSJ reports that another very likely casualty of the not so velvet revolution in MENA, and of increasingly heated (and more desperate) backdoor deals with Saudi Arabia the UAE, is Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh who has accepted "a political deal brokered by neighboring Arab countries that would have him step down from power after 30 days in exchange for immunity for himself and his close relatives, according to a presidential aide." Let's not forget that Gadaffi also offered to step down (or was rumored in one of the frail attempts to take down oil before the big guns, read Goldman, had to step in with their "research") - a gambit which led to just more massacres of innocent civilians. And since Al Qaeda is likely the biggest loser in such a deal, we don't expect this plan to be pulled off without a lot off fireworks.

From the WSJ:

The apparent softening of the longtime ruler's recalcitrant stance that he would remain in power until the end of his term in 2013 comes after a burst of arm-twisting and backroom diplomacy by Yemen's close allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It renews the possibility that the volatile country could see a handover of power before the volatile country descends into widespread violence, but it is unclear whether key groups who comprise the backbone of Yemen's opposition movement would accept the controversial clause of immunity for the man who has ruled Yemen for 32 years.

Yemen's key Arab allies and the U.S. have grown increasingly worried that the three-month political standoff has reversed gains made by American and Yemeni forces to weaken and destroy the entrenched Al Qaeda networks inside Yemen. In recent weeks, as protests against the president have gained traction, as many as half of the country's U.S.-trained counter-terrorism forces, which are commanded by President Saleh's son and nephews, have left their posts in al Qaeda-infested areas of the country to help defend the leader's official residence in the capital San'a.

Last week's burst of lobbying by Gulf officials, led by Saudi Arabia, sent the message to embattled President Saleh that he had lost the backing of his neighbors, but that they would ensure he received a dignified exit from office, according to two Arab diplomats familiar with the negotiations conducted over the last week.

"President Saleh welcomed the proposal and has accepted it," presidential aide Tariq Shami told The Wall Street Journal. "Though President Saleh has constitutional rights to stay in power, he is willing to leave office willingly."

To us, the only actual news here is that Saudi Arabia is probably more concerned than ever with increasing regional destabilization, and will now aggressively intervene (pari passu with the US) and get its way, in the modelling of the "sovereign" map of the Gulf. As always, in geopolitics every action tends to have an equal (if not stronger) and opposite reaction. We will find out what that ends up being quite soon.