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Kjetil Selvik

Kjetil Selvik is Senior Researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute and Adjunct Associate Professor at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo. He holds a PhD in political science from L’Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris and specializes in the comparative...
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War in Yemen: the view from Iran

Kjetil Selvik , 15 October 2015

In the regional backdrop to the war in Yemen Iran is a pivotal actor. Saudi Arabia has made clear that it sees the conflict in Yemen as the extension of its struggle with the Islamic Republic. This paper analyses the view from Iran as found in Iranian news and political analysis websites. It argues that different political and ideological orientations converge in opposition to the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen, deepening the regional logjam. The study also shows that revolutionary-ideological interpretation frames coexist with legal-democratic suggestions to end the crisis.

Overall, the Iranian debate runs contrary to Saudi Arabia’s understanding of the crisis. Saudi Arabia argues that the Huthi takeover in Sanaa represents a ‘disruption of normalcy’ and a dangerous usurpation of power. From Iran’s vantage point, it is the natural consequence of the Yemeni government’s repression and external relations. Saudi Arabia justifies its military operation by deposed President ‘Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s call for protection of Yemen and its people. Iran contests Mansur Hadi’s legitimacy and considers the military intervention arbitrary and illegal. Saudi Arabia sees the Huthis as a proxy of Iran, united by a common Shia identity. Iran perceives the Huthis’ Zaydi creed as religiously different but associates their cause with its own political agenda.

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