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. Riding off into the sunset?
This is another development in a kind of crisis-behind-the-crisis: if leaders are subject to ill-treatment on their downfall, will their neighbors take notice and hold on to power with all their might? Saleh has seen Hosni Mubarak thrown in jail (again, justly) in recent days, and surely wishes to avoid a similar fate. The bloody crackdowns in Syria are the efforts of another tyrant to keep himself in power and out of the slammer. The Saleh deal is thus a positive step, in that it shows other troubled rulers that golden parachutes are available. However, it has a downside–the masses are still energized against the regime, because their demands have not been met. Will the elections sate them if they end up empowering a Saleh ally? Will the opposition parties be able to outmaneuver their uncompromising bases and enter the legal political game? If both of these questions are answered with a “no,” then Yemen runs a serious risk of civil war.
Yemen is already suffering from “a security vacuum” and political and economic paralysis. Thirty days from now, the economic, political and security landscape is going to be much more bleak, with a level of damage that is nearly irrecoverable in the mid-term. The western consensus is that the protesters demands are immature and unrealistic, but they have it right. Saleh has to go immediately and be brought to trial for his many crimes. The requirement for a perfect transition plan prior to the executive’s departure was not applied in Egypt or Tunisia or contemplated in Libya and, like a war plan, won’t survive first contact with reality. The issue here is damage control. But any future state that is built on the crimes of the past will contain inherent triggers of conflict.