Research

A truism that is valid for almost all revolutions – including the English, French, and the European revolutions of the mid-nineteenth century, the Iranian Revolution and east European revolutions after the Cold War – is that every revolution has an associated counterrevolution. A common thread through most modern revolutions is that they expressed the desire of the people in a nation to restrain the modern state either by demanding constitutional rights and democracy, confronting authoritarianism and the hegemony of the ruling elite, or by demanding a just social system that would be based on the redistribution of economic burdens and wealth. The success of a revolution, however, has never been guaranteed. In the past few decades, the countries that have experienced relatively easy transitions to democracy have been those that had been part of broader regional systems, or which had received support from regional bodies such as the European Union. Even such countries were not always spared counterrevolutionary retaliations.

When the Saudi ambassador in Washington announced the launching of airstrikes and a military intervention in Yemen on Wednesday night, the kingdom surprised everyone - not least Iran.Conventional wisdom was that Riyadh had dithered and left it too late. The Houthis and elements of the army loyal to the ousted autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son Ahmed had advanced on the southern city of Aden with such speed that its fall, and that of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, was considered only a matter of time.

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