Robert F. Worth is currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he is working on a book about the 2011 Arab uprisings and their aftermath. He is a frequent contributor to The New York TimesMagazine. (October 2014)
Safa al Ahmad’s remarkable BBC documentary, Yemen: The Rise of the Houthis, is a rare close-up look at the most mysterious player in this agonizing and complex drama. The Houthi movement, which grew out of a deep sense of victimization by the state, has long been an enigma, even to many Yemenis, and it defies easy explanation.
The educated youth who kicked off the revolutions of 2011 are not necessarily the vanguard of a new and more secular Middle East. They are one party in a bitter conflict over fundamental issues of identity and social order, a conflict whose outcome is far from certain.
Yemen is an ancient country on the southern heel of the Arabian peninsula, the crucible of many of the peoples and customs we now think of as Arab. But to most Westerners, it is little more than a code word for bizarre terror plots.
Five years after the September 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden is a diminished figure. President Bush has started mentioning him again in recent speeches, but mainly to highlight American success in crippling and isolating al-Qaeda’s leaders. Last year, the CIA disbanded Alec Station, the unit assigned to hunt down bin …