Saudi Arabia’s plans to turn Qatar into an Island

Published On June 26, 2018 | By anamkhan | International, News, Politics

Proposed canal at the border of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. (AN illustration/Courtesy Google Maps)

Anam Khan

Saudi Arabia intends to cut Qatar off by turning it into an island.

The two Middle East nations are feuding because the kingdom accused Qatar of supporting terror groups and for its strong ties to rival Iran, and is now apparently planning to sever the smaller nation from the Arabian Peninsula with a 60-km canal along their border.

A Saudi media report suggests work on the canal, complete with tourist sites and business projects, will begin within a year.

Tensions between the two countries escalated in the past year since June 2017 when Saudi Arabia called for a severing of all relations and including a land, sea, and air blockade.

Saudi Arabia led a coalition that included the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to cut off all diplomatic relations with Qatar.

The kingdom, which is over 186 times bigger than Qatar, plans to dig a canal along its side essentially disconnecting the two countries permanently.

Aurel Braun, a political science professor at the University of Toronto in Mississauga, believes digging a canal is a manifestation of Saudi concern about being less economically dependent on Qatar and being able to increase the pressure on the Gulf nation to cut its ties with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The canal is not illegal but it can be expensive and environmentally problematic, he said. Braun believes this is a symptom of the problems and it doesn’t help them resolve the issue.

“Saudi Arabia has found that Qatar has been closely tied to helping the Muslim Brotherhood and they have not been cooperative on (dealing with) Yemen,” Braun said.

He said Saudi Arabia would be able to increase economic pressure on Qatar with the canal.

“Various countries have decided to apply a lot of pressure on Qatar thinking Qatar will cave into that pressure,” Braun said. “They haven’t, because they have received help from Iran,” which he described as the world’s largest supporter of terrorism.

The blockade is entering its second year and Qatar called for an immediate lift of the ban citing the act has led to a crisis, wrote Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani wrote in a June 5 article in the New York Times.

“In Qatar, we believe that the crises in the Middle East are interconnected and require comprehensive solutions, and that peace and stability will be restored only when the region’s countries agree to work together,” Abdulrahman Al-Thani stated,

He said Arab nations should unite against the inhumane situations taking place in Syria and Yemen and that the Middle East needs to focus on rebuilding Iraq and Libya instead of “pursuing petty grievances and ambitions” that undermine the regions unity by blocking Qatar.

“The blockading countries may have expected to bring Qatar to its knees. If that was their intention, their effort has clearly backfired,” Abdulrahman Al-Thani said.

The coalition stated Qatar’s alleged support of terrorism is in violation of the terms of the Gulf Cooperation Council — a political union that consists of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain — in 2014, forcing the other countries to cut ties with the nation.

“They often played a double game, one where they have proclaimed that they are in favour of cooperating with the west and having good relations but at the same time supporting extremist groups,” Braun said.

“They say one thing and do something else,” he said.

 

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