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Little noticed amidst the violence fomented by the Islamic State militant group throughout the Middle East and northern Africa has been the disintegration of Yemen and the seizure of power by the Houthis, an Iranian-backed group of rebels. The conflict in Yemen reflects geographic as well as sectarian rifts in the country, but the greatest danger is sustained chaos that allows other, more violent groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida to insinuate themselves into Yemen and use the country as a base for operations elsewhere.

The roots of the Houthi unrest go back to 1962, when Egypt’s President Gamal Nasser invaded Yemen and with the support of Yemeni republic army officers overthrew the Imamate (Shiite Kingdom) of Yemen. While the Nasser-backed forces prevailed, the Shiites in Yemen, who constitute about 30 percent of the population, have nurtured their grievances ever since. The Houthis, originally called Believing Youth, were formed in 1992 in the city of Saada to fight Sunni-backed forces that sought to gain control over Saada.

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