In 2011, a nationwide uprising akin to those in Tunisia and Egypt deposed the country’s autocratic leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh. There was no democratic election before his successor, the Saudi- and U.S.-backed Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, took over — he ran unopposed. And there was no relief from the terrible poverty, unemployment, and government corruption that brought about the popular revolt.
So a few months ago, a reformist movement and militia called the Houthis — which had launched a handful of rebellions against Saleh in the past — took advantage of widespread discontent to conquer the capital, Sanaa. Hadi fled into exile, and the Saudis started bombing shortly thereafter.
Since then, local militias in central and southern Yemen have fiercely resisted the Houthis and army units still loyal to Saleh, who is now allied with his former foes. Meanwhile, a local franchise of al-Qaeda is fighting everybody.
In short, it’s terribly complicated, and the bombs aren’t helping.