US-Saudi Embargo on Qatar is Idiotic for the U.S.

Saudi Arabia’s deadline for accepting tenders to dig a 60-kilometre canal that will turn Qatar into an island was completed on June 25th. Now Saudi Arabia is planning to complete the project in 15 months.

Five international companies with expertise in digging canals have so far submitted their tenders for the Salwa canal inside the territories of Saudi Arabia and alongside the Saudi-Qatari borders. The name of the winner will be announced within 90 days and the company will have one year to complete the task, Saudi daily Makkah has reported.

The planned canal, expected to cost SR2.8 billion (Dh2.74 billion), will stretch from Salwa to Khor Al Adeed, and will be 200 meters wide and 15 to 20 meters deep, allowing ships up to 295 meters long and 33 meters wide to navigate it. Several resorts with private beaches in Salwa, Sakak, Khor Al Adeed and two in Ras Abu Qamees are also being planned.

Seaports will be built in Salwa and in Aqlat Al Zawayed and will complement the one in Ras Abu Qamees. Marinas for yachts and water sports will be built on the two banks of the canal, making it one of the most attractive in the Gulf region.

The canal will be inside Saudi territory, making it fully Saudi, and will be about one kilometer from the official border with Qatar.

A Saudi military base will be established in the one kilometre separating the Salwa waterway from Qatar, while the remainder will be converted into a waste dump for the Saudi nuclear reactor, which Riyadh plans to build according to best practices and global environmental requirements.

In April this year, Saudi border guards took control of the Salwa crossing, effectively cutting off Qatar’s only terrestrial link with the outside world. The customs and passports departments evacuated the crossing and handed over its control to the Border Guards, shortly after orders had been given to station them along the borders. The move was understood to signify that work on the ambitious project to dig the waterway would start earlier than predicted.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt on June 5 last year (2017) severed their diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremists and funding terrorism. The Quartet issued a list of 13 demands and asked Qatar to comply with them to restore ties.

Qatar is home to U.S.’s largest base in the Middle East, and its largest air field. Qatar is a major investment Within its borders lies the massive al Udeid airbase, where 10,000 U.S. personnel are stationed. It is the largest, most important U.S. military facility in the Middle East, hosting the forward elements of USCENTCOM, and providing a base for much of America’s air operations in the region. Its runways are large enough to base the B-52s that bomb ISIS. The United States has even benefited from the ambiguous ties between Qatar’s Persian Gulf partners and terrorist groups: When America sought the release of a hostage held by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, it turned to Qatar to broker the deal.

If the United States wants to provide security for the Persian Gulf, and fight terrorism, it cannot afford to undermine Qatar. That would undermine the very purpose of U.S. involvement in the first place, and risk incurring disaster. This Saudi policy is idiotic and will backfire on the U.S.

Interestingly, the U.S. is also, now sanctioning Turkey, which provides security assistance to Qatar. The US is pushing several allies ‘away’ from their alliance with the U.S. And the effect of these sanctions and embargoes is that the U.S. itself will be increasingly isolated and undermined.

It is arrogant to think that the U.S. doesn’t need more friends and allies. Trump is a bully, MBS is a bully, and they don’t understand how vulnerable they truly are. These policies will backfire and then what? (It’ll be too late).  None of this is good for U.S. interests in the region. Its idiotic.

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