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Many are confused by the senseless wars now spreading like wildfire throughout the Arab region. Some think that these conflicts have deep-rooted internal causes, such as the tension between Islamists and liberals. Others look at these conflicts from a sectarian and ethnic perspective and consider them rooted in fundamental disputes between religious or sectarian ideologies or between tribes and provincial regions. There is yet a third group that sees this as a crisis of old regimes that want to forestall the political changes initiated by the Arab revolutions and the foreign interventions that caused chaos in the region. There is no doubt that each of these different characterizations of the current conflicts in the Arab region has evidence to support its interpretation and its own proposals on whether these conflicts can be tackled and if so, how. Nevertheless, none of these characterizations are sufficient to understand the complex dynamics causing the current political divisions in Arab societies, especially in those states that are experiencing fierce conflicts such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. For these places, the tendency towards over-simplification in explaining the causes of strife has a profound effect on policy making and the practical solutions necessary to end this strife. Furthermore, some of the recommendations put forward in Western capitals, such as the division of these states into sectarian cantons, could lead to even more violent wars in the future.

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