President Barack Obama has decided in principle to allow the former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to enter the United States for medical treatment, administration officials announced yesterday.
The administration has not yet issued a visa to Saleh, but if allowed to enter, he would be the first Arab leader to be granted an extended stay in the U.S. since the Arab Spring began earlier this year. The embattled Yemeni president could arrive for treatment at New York-Presbyterian Hospital as soon as the end of this week for treatment of medical problems stemming from a bomb blast at his presidential complex in June.
The decision of whether to allow Saleh to receive treatment in the U.S. has reportedly touched off a vigorous debate within the administration. On the one hand, some officials say the decision will anger many Yemenis who want Saleh to be prosecuted for the killing of protesters by his security forces. They fear that America will face sharp criticism and backlash in the Arab world for providing a medical safe haven for such a reviled and authoritarian ruler. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter's decision to admit the Iranian Shah into the U.S. for medical treament led Islamic revolutionaries to storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and take 52 American hostages.
On the other hand, some believe that giving him a way to leave Yemen might smooth the way to elections next year. "The main goal is to remove him physically from Yemen so there's no way he can meddle in the political process there," said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Getting him medical treatment seemed a logical way to do this."
Where do you stand? Should President Obama allow former President Saleh, or other ailing world dictators, to enter the U.S. to receive medical treatment? Why or why not?
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