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There are optimistic noises coming out of Yemen regarding any future US policy there. One of the main concerns being voiced within the US was what would happen in the fight against al-Qaeda there once President Saleh gave in to the protester demands and stepped down. This was a false concern – Saleh was not nearly as helpful as the US sometimes believed he was.
Yet following talks with government officials and opposition figures in Yemen, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffery Feltman has voiced his confidence that no matter what government emerges post Saleh, they will be a reliable partner with the US against al-Qaeda.
Feltman said that ‘Everyone gave us some assurances that they are concerned about al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Any government is going to be a strong partner. They are committed to work with us in fighting terrorism.’ This is very encouraging, but also should not be that surprising. Any government in Yemen actually focused on improving the lots of its citizens (even one with Islamist elements) recognises the threat posed by al-Qaeda.
Also encouraging is the news that Saleh may be on the verge of signing the Gulf Cooperation Council deal. Saleh recently initiated a meeting with a Yemeni diplomat in Saudi Arabia to discuss the transfer of power. Although, as we now know with Saleh, it is tough to trust his word entirely. He has backed away from similar initiatives on multiple occasions, and we should not rule out him doing so again.