Shi'ite Muslim rebels hold up their weapons during a rally against air strikes in Sanaa March 26, 2015. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
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The latest war in the Middle East, the Saudi Arabian-led assault on Yemen to prevent the Houthi movement from taking full control of the country, has triggered a fascinating legal and ideological debate about the legitimacy and efficacy of the venture.This is not a consequence of the wars; it is the cause of the wars.Yemen today, with its combination of domestic and overt regional participation in the fighting, has widely been explained as the apex of a regional cold war between Iranian and Saudi Arabia, who are said to be competing for regional dominance, or at least influence. I find this analysis too simplistic, mainly because the roots of the violence and country fragmentations we are witnessing across the region go well back into the past century, before any Saudi-Iranian tensions emerged in recent years. It is fascinating and perhaps historically pivotal because it comprises a combination of Arab and Asian countries waging direct warfare inside an Arab state with the active support of major international powers, including the United States. We have four such wars taking place now in the Arab world, and others may erupt elsewhere.
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