Yemen, a country slightly smaller than Texas, is currently the center of international attention, as yet another revolution rocks the Middle East. Located right below Saudi Arabia on the Arabian peninsula, Yemen is being torn apart by a messy civil war between numerous factions influenced by international powers. The main groups are Zaidi Shia rebels, known as Houthis, and the Yemeni government, led by President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who came to power during the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions. The tangled nature of the war is mainly caused by deep-seated Shia-Shiite tensions and regional conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Although Yemen has surprisingly been free of religious jihad, conflict between the Sunni-led government and Shi’ite Houthis signals a more sectarian conflict. This is further complicated by the presence of Al-Qaeda Sunni extremists who have launched attacks against the Shiite Houthis and the fact that the Houthis do not have a clear agenda. With Shi’ite Iran supporting the Houthis and Saudi Arabia supporting the Yemeni government, the conflict has quickly drawn in other regional players. A Saudi-led military coalition consisting of Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, and Sudan, as well as being supported by Egypt and Pakistan, has launched airstrikes against Houthi-occupied northern Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the coalition aim to prevent the disintegration of Yemen, keep Al-Qaeda from thriving in the chaos, and protect essential shipping lanes off the coast of Yemen.
American policy in the Middle East centers on oil and terrorism, which are also the two main reasons we are allied with Saudi Arabia, a country that does not even allow women to drive. Because we are allies, America is backing the Yemeni government. While Iran claims that the Houthis are leading a popular revolution, Saudi Arabia claims they are a danger to stability. At this point, America has only stationed ships in the area to prevent Iran from sending weapons to the Houthis. After the costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, America should stay far away from this conflict. Regardless of who wins, Yemen will have to institute major reforms before any semblance of stability can happen.