When the United States announced the list of countries in its new naval coalition protecting Red Sea shipping from Yemen's Houthi group, Saudi Arabia's name was conspicuously — perhaps surprisingly — absent.

Although it has a U.S.-equipped military, has been waging war on the Houthis for nearly nine years and relies on Red Sea ports for 36% of imports, Saudi Arabia along with Gulf ally the United Arab Emirates has proclaimed no interest in the venture.

The main reason for its absence appears to be a concern that participating would detract from a long-term strategic goal: extricating itself from a messy war in Yemen and a destructive feud with the Houthis' principal backer, Iran.