Regional blocs in the Middle East and Africa are stepping up their diplomacy today, floating solutions to the crises in Libya and Yemen that have won the support of each country's embattled leader. But many analysts are reporting on the mediation efforts with skepticism, noting that opposition leaders are balking at the plans and that the alliances may not be well-positioned to resolve the conflicts.
The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council--led by Yemen's northern neighbor, Saudi Arabia--has developed a plan for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down and transfer power to his vice president, paving the way for a " national unity government under the leadership of the opposition" to draft a constitution and hold elections. But, according to to analysts, there are several reasons to be skeptical that the plan will succeed:
- While Saleh has welcomed the plan, Reuters explains, Yemen's opposition rejects it because the G.C.C. doesn't specify when Saleh must cede power and appears to grant the Yemeni leader and his family immunity from prosecution. That's why demonstrations against the plan are occuring throughout the country, the news agency says.
- Gregory D. Johnson, a doctoral candidate at Princeton and Yemen analyst, argues that the GCC plan has become more of a political weapon than a political solution--a "wedge that all sides in Yemen are using to try to gain leverage against their opponents." He's also wary of any reports that Saleh will step down imminently, since "this marks roughly the 15th time in the past month I've read headlines saying Salih ready to quit, and yet he is still there."
- Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security Project, observes that the G.C.C. has long kept Yemen at "arms length" and only appears to be offering help now as security in the country deteriorates. "Now that the GCC is offering the mediate the crisis in Yemen WE CAN ALL GO HOME," he adds sarcastically.
The African Union, meanwhile, announced today that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has agreed to honor an immediate ceasefire and negotiate with the opposition "with the view to adopting and implementing the political reforms necessary for the elimination of the causes of the current crisis." But here again, there appear to be reasons for pause:
- Bloomberg points out that Libyan rebel leaders--who are meeting with an A.U. delegation in Benghazi today amidst protests against the proposal--are not in the mood for any compromise that would leave Qaddafi in power and leave them vulnerable to reprisals. They want Qaddafi and his sons step down, Bloomberg says, a possibility that Uganda's A.U. ambassador says can't be discussed until political negotiations begin.
- Al Arabiya notes that the A.U. has not insisted that Qaddafi remove his troops from cities, as the opposition demands, and that "earlier truce offers from Mr. Qaddafi have come to nothing."
- The BBC's Will Ross adds that the A.U. has a bad reputation for solving crises, has been bankrolled by Qaddafi for years, and is often dismissed as "a club which serves the interests of the continent's presidents more than the people." The A.U. claims it's in a unique position because it can talk with both Qaddafi and the rebels, Ross allows, but the tough part will be "convincing the Libyan rebels to hold fire and talk."
The photo above shows Qaddafi meeting with Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz at his compound in Tripoli yesterday (South African President Jacob Zuma was also present).