Saudi Arabia wants to cut off Qatar — literally.
The Middle Eastern kingdom is considering building a 60-kilometer-long moat around Qatar, which would virtually isolate the country.
Saudi state-linked news outlets reported this week that digging the so-called Salwa Marine Canal project would cost $750 million and aims to generate economic activity and tourism in the area. Other reports, from Saudi’s Al-Riyadh newspaper, suggest the kingdom would construct a military base on one part of the border, while the other portion would be used as a dumping ground for nuclear waste. The project is still awaiting official approval, according to the reports.
The construction plans come nine months after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the UAE imposed a blockade on Qatar — cutting off trade and transport routes — in response to Qatar’s ties with Iran and alleged terrorism financing. Food imports were blocked, air travel barred, and Qatari diplomats were expelled from the quartet of countries.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, met in Washington this week to discuss de-escalating the tensions in the region and fighting ISIS.
While global leaders have offered support for Qatar and human rights organizations have criticized the embargo, President Donald Trump appeared to take some credit for it at the time.
The U.S. has roughly 10,000 troops at al-Udeid air base in Qatar, a key position for U.S. airstrike operations in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
The waterway, funded by Saudi and Emirati investors, would take 12 months to build, according to the Saudi reports.
Cover image: Shops advertise local products in Doha, Qatar, June 22, 2017. (Photo by: Jan Kuhlmann/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)