Saudi media outlets reported last week on a national proposal to build a 200-meter-wide, 60-kilometer-long canal on the border between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, effectively turning the peninsular country into an island:
The $750 million plan, which would be funded by Saudi and Emirati investors and carried out by Egyptian companies with experience working on the Suez Canal, is still awaiting official approval. At this point, it’s not quite clear how real it is, but the reports should be read in the context of growing tension between Qatar and its fellow gulf monarchies, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The two countries have been enforcing a blockade on Qatar since last June over a number of grievances including Qatar’s relations with Iran, its funding of Muslim Brotherhood groups in various countries, and its patronage of the satellite network Al-Jazeera.
The land crossing between Qatar and Saudi Arabia is already shut down as part of the blockade, but the canal plan would make Qatar’s isolation from its neighbors quite literal.
Adding insult to injury, the AP reports that under the proposal:
Saudi Arabia would transform part of its side of the border with Qatar into a military base and another area would become a dump site for waste from nuclear reactors the kingdom wants to build. The UAE, meanwhile, would also build a nuclear waste site at the closest point near its border with Qatar.
The nuclear-waste bit somewhat contradicts the notion described in the Saudi reports that the canal is part of a project to “develop tourism in the area,” but who knows?
The Trump administration’s warm embrace of the Saudi regime, particularly Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, has been well-documented. One can only imagine Trump’s envy if the Saudis really do roll out their big, beautiful border canal.