To understand the limits of the Houthis influence in Yemen, it is important to have an idea about the ground realities in Sana'a, the capital controlled by the militant group. It must be understood here that military campaigns for an indefinite period of time are not solutions for Yemen's legitimate government or the Arab coalition. Something will give way, and the Houthi rebels will eventually fall under the weight of their contradictions.
To defeat the enemy, you must read him well. This ancient advice from Sun Tzu in The Art of War not only applies to the military sphere but also to Yemen's social system in general. It requires an understanding of the country's culture, the economy, the social fabric, political and tribal differences. Will the Houthis change tactics after the death of former ally President Ali Abdallah Saleh? Saleh's party, the General People Congress, dominated the Yemen political system for decades, from 1997 to 2011.
The Yemen war has evolved as the source of the Houthis' livelihood. It's a war economy they thrive on. In order to continue the fighting, the group has to convince the Yemenis that the war is necessary. They are clever at pointing flaws and have been making the legitimate government look like an enemy.
Most of the Yemenis are disgruntled by the miserable conditions inside the country. The list is long - from salary cuts to the interruption of electricity and water, and the spread of epidemics. All these grievances have made the government lose its credibility among the people.
Moreover, the Houthis are focused on Saudi Arabia as their main enemy in an attempt to transform the conflict from a Yemeni-Yemeni conflict into a Yemeni-Saudi conflict to convince the people that their enemy is outside the country.
During their alliance with Saleh, they were able to garner political support and mobilise large crowds. But Saleh's death has dented that appeal. The absence of Saleh from the political arena may give way to the emergence of a new leader - which the Houthis might not allow. They will do their best to eliminate the remnants of Saleh's party and destroy the social and political clout of the many tribes.
A decline in tribal strength will surely aid the Houthis in Sana'a. Multiple loyalties - regional, sectarian and political - make it easy for them. They will seek to impose a new social order that glorifies the imamate system that was governed by one class (Al Sada).
It makes us wonder if Yemen would return to the era of the imamate and announce the end of the republic? The group is doing its best to convince the Yemeni people of the so-called internal and the external threat. Some Yemeni elements are collaborating with the Houthis, and it may be a tough fight for the coalition in Sana'a, which the group controls.
They have held the capital since September 21, 2014, but the big question is for how long? As for the central regions, especially Taiz and Ibb, they are under the influence of multiple political forces from the North and the South.
The Houthis will continue to adopt their foggy plans without a clear strategy.
Their hit-and-run approach to military or political negotiations will not get them far. They might have control of the capital, but it will be difficult to manage political and social divisions, and the people could turn against them. When that happens, they will have to retreat to Saada, their stronghold.