Saudi Arabia may soon spend an excessive amount of money just to troll its neighbor, Qatar.
Riyadh is reportedly fielding offers from at least five companies to dig a canal along the Qatari-Saudi border — known as the “Salwa Canal” project — that would turn the peninsula of Qatar into an island. That would mean creating a 38-mile-long, 65-feet-deep, 660-feet-wide channel simply to surround Qatar completely with water — turning an existing political rift between the two countries into a physical fact.
Saudi Arabia said it would make a decision about which bid to accept 90 days after the June 25 deadline. It hopes to have the project completed about a year after that, and it will jointly pay around $750 million with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to get the job done.
And that’s not all. Some reports indicate that Saudi Arabia would use the area along the canal as a place to store nuclear waste — just to rub some salt (or uranium) in the wound.
If this all seems petty, it’s because it is. But it isn’t random: This is just the latest manifestation of a year-long crisis pitting Riyadh and its allies against Qatar.
The Gulf crisis doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon
Last June, Saudi Arabia and three of its biggest friends — Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain — all announced that they were severing diplomatic ties with Qatar, as well as suspending air, land, and sea travel to and from the country. The move came after Riyadh accused Qatar of cozying up to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main regional adversary, and of backing Islamic extremist groups. Saudi Arabia has clashed with Qatar in the past over Qatar’s rogue foreign policy stance and the coverage of its influential, state-funded news organization, Al Jazeera.
Since then, Libya, Yemen, and the Maldives have also joined the diplomatic boycott.
That spat has continued until today, and it may soon manifest in a giant moat that physically separates Qatar from the Arabian Peninsula. Riyadh already closed its only land border with Qatar last year, forcing Doha to find new routes to trade with other countries. A long, deep channel will only make that task harder.
The question now is if Saudi Arabia will actually follow through with the canal plan. After all, requesting designs from companies is one thing; completing the massive project is something else entirely.
But if Riyadh is willing to go through all this trouble, it’s clear the standoff won’t end anytime soon.