On the ground, the situation is actually even murkier. The Houthis supported by Iran may be fighting Riyadh, but they are also fighting al-Qaeda remnants and a few Daesh jihadis. The House of Saud creates the illusion they are doing the same. In fact, they do nothing.
Additionally, the Houthis are also fighting the Southern Transitional Council, formed only two years ago. This is a separatist outfit that wants an independent South Yemen. Yet the STC is most of all a UAE fifth column, funded and weaponized by Abu Dhabi.
So what is Abu Dhabi supremo Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ), MBS's mentor, really up to in Yemen? Follow the (oil) money. What really matters is full control of the immensely strategic Bab-el-Mandeb strait connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. It's all about oil trade and connectivity. China, with a base in nearby Djibouti, is paying enormous attention to what's happening in Aden and south Yemen.
Meanwhile, Yemen's "government," led by President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, remains an inefficient fiction. Basically the only thing Hadi does is to support the Southern Transitional Council to fight the Houthis.
Enter yet another, fascinating oil angle. Hadi is actually moving his operation to mythical Ma'arib the fabled capital of Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba.
Much like Freud comparing the layers of the unconscious to the layers of Roman ruins, there are myriad, superimposed Ma'aribs in Yemen's extraordinary history. Ma'arib was the original capital of Arabia Felix, praised by eminent historians such as Strabo and Diodorus Siculus, a city sending a thousand talents of incense to Babylon every 12 moons for the feast of Baal or selling ivory, gold and leopard skins to the caravans of Hatshepsut, the Queen of Egypt.
Ma'arib's gaze is fixed on the Rub al-Khali, the Great Desert Void, dreaming of a new Arabian Empire certainly not ruled by the shabby, corrupt, supremely ignorant House of Saud. Enter, again, the UAE angle.
Ma'arib happens to be the land of origin of Sheikh Zayed, MBZ's father. That's where his tribe departed from. In the 1970s, Sheikh Zayed was actually financing an army of archeologists and agricultural engineers involved in the rebirth of Ma'arib. Today, as the hidden power behind governor Sultan al-Aradah, his son MBZ would like to control it to perhaps fulfill Daddy's dream. The problem is, the Houthis will never let him.
The desert holds all secrets
Trying to decode the Yemeni puzzle is like being immersed in a Jorge Luis Borges labyrinth of mirrors. Actually a pyramid of mirrors. In Beirut, I had the privilege of sharing countless stories with my friend Princess Vittoria Alliata from Sicily, the epitome of cool aristocracy, a renowned Islamologist and the first Italian translator of Lord of the Rings (Tolkien absolutely loved it).
Vittoria, who translated our conversations with al-Emad, graciously gave me one of the few remaining copies of the 1980 first edition by Garzanti of her spellbinding Harem, a study of women in the Arab world in the form of travel memories. In it, I found this immaculately Borgesian passage by Hasan ibn Ahmad al-Hamdani, written way back in 935 AD in Sana'a:
"In the sands of the desert is buried an upside-down pyramid; it contains the truth of the human race. Truth is buried in the desert sands, so the one who by chance discovers it shall be regarded by men as a madman with his brains burned by solitude and the sun."
The fact that the barbarians of the House of Saud are aiming to destroy Arabia Felix the seat of a fabulous, millennia-old desert civilization and store of knowledge speaks volumes about our tawdry times. True Yemenis see right through it.
In more prosaic terms, after the spectacular, game-changing attack on Abqaiq, the Houthi movement, via President of Yemen's Supreme Political Council Mahdi al-Mashat, offered a ceasefire to MBS. His entourage only accepted a "partial" stop to the relentless bombing campaign. So more daring operations, complete with drone swarms and Quds-1 missiles, are inevitable. As Bukhaiti remarked, they "will target more vital and critical facilities of Saudis."