Yemen’s 18-month civil war has killed about 10,000 people, and now it is pushing the country to the brink of famine. More than 21 million Yemenis — 80% of the population — are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Much of Yemen’s poverty is due to dire water shortages. Yemen’s conflict has been characterized as a proxy war between Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. Yemen’s domestic conflict over the inability to produce consensus... has now escalated into an intractable multi-party war.

the context has changed dramatically. Today there are all-out civil wars burning in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya, and would-be civil wars simmering in Egypt, Turkey, Mali, Somalia, and South Sudan. Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, and Tunisia all face dangerous internal discord. Iran and Saudi Arabia now lead rival coalitions waging proxy wars—figuratively across the region, and literally across Syria, Yemen, and (to a lesser extent) Iraq.

describing the Syrian quagmire as a proxy war implies that the conflict is mainly about larger fissures in the region, especially the rift between Sunni and Shiite, Saudi Arabia and Iran ... But that phrase gets tossed around too carelessly and comes with some dangerous myths ... Proxy wars do not miraculously extinguish themselves without some measure of bottom-up attempts to make peace among local fighters or a fundamental shift in the conflict’s balance of power on the ground.