Rumors abound that the Saudis are planning to dig a large canal in the north of the country which will turn Qatar from a Peninsula into an island. Saudi media report that private investors from Saudi Arabia and the UAE will finance the state-ordered construction of the canal on Arabian territory. The canal would be designed to separate Qatar from the Arabian Peninsula and thereby, in their opinion, emphasize the outcast nature of the Qatari regime. According to Saudi royal advisor Saoud al-Qahtani, the 60 kilometer-long channel given the name of Selva is planned as a natural state border which, in addition to the official one, will pass through Saudi territory 1 kilometer from the Saudi-Qatar border. Interestingly enough, a new Saudi military base will be built in the same area. The project will be implemented in the course of the year. Its estimated cost is about $750 million.
The last part of the interview given by the royal adviser to the Makkah newspaper is highly interesting: “Is Riyadh’s decision to create the island of Selva against international law? Does Saudi Arabia have the right to build a military base and store radioactive waste (highlighted by the author) in the area? Of course it does. This is the sovereign right of the Kingdom,” said Saoud al-Qahtani.
By the way, we may recall how the United States exhorted many countries to impose spiteful sanctions on Iran only for its desire to develop nuclear energy. But now, the royal advisor is calmly telling us about Saudi Arabia’s radioactive waste (where have they got it from, if I may ask?) and the country’s plans to store this waste not in the famous Rub’ al Khali desert, but in a densely populated region on the border with rebellious Qatar.
So what do we have here? The so-called “democratic” United States government, aided by its aggressive statute, establishes a double morality and makes its own laws. While imposing spiteful sanctions against Iran and its people, it has no problem with the nuclear plans of its Saudi vassal.
In this regard, there have been interesting reports from the Western press concerning Israel, which may be secretly helping Saudi scientists and its military to create a nuclear bomb. As the saying goes: there’s no smoke without fire. According to a senior official of the Israeli military organization iHLS (Israel Homeland Security), the Israeli government began selling information to Saudi Arabia concerning the development of nuclear weapons. Ami Dor-On, a senior expert on nuclear weapons, made the statement in view of the growing possibility of a nuclear arms race in the region. It should be noted that iHLS is partly funded by the U.S. corporation Raytheon which manufactures weapons, mintpressnews.com reports. Cooperation in the development of a nuclear weapons program shows a growing improvement in the relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
It should be noted that Saudi Arabia has issued such a warning for the first time, as a harsh and immediate response to the possibility of Iran building its own nuclear bomb. The Saudis are currently on the threshold of developing their own frequently-mentioned nuclear program and for this purpose want to acquire 18 nuclear reactors. Questions arise as to whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman places enough trust in his project and contacts with those involved in the implementation of the Saudi Nuclear Project. It seems that in order to compensate for lost time, Saudi Arabia is calling on international experience to help train its national scientific nuclear personnel – even the experience of its recent sworn enemy, Israel. The bomb is a kind of response to strategic changes going on in the region. Once again, this allows us to question whether the U.S. ban on the creation of any military nuclear program whatsoever has really given a crack in the wall.
But let us return to the Arabian Peninsula. It seems like yesterday that the Saudi King and Qatari Emir were the best of friends. And now, they’re hardened enemies. According to tradition, Saudi Arabia is considered the elder sister of the smaller countries of the Arabian Peninsula which is actually considered the Arabs’ homeland. And faithful to tradition, Riyadh is still trying to have command over other Arabs. But times have changed. If earlier only Saudi Arabia produced the oil which brought it huge revenues, now other countries of the Arabian Peninsula have their own good sources of income. Qatar, for example, successfully supplies liquefied natural gas (LNG) worldwide. In the huge Pars field in the Persian Gulf, the Qataris and Iranians extract natural gas which is then converted into LNG and transported to many countries of the world by gas carriers. It’s worth noting that thanks to the reasonable policy of its emirs, this small emirate owns a huge fleet of gas carriers and has no need to build expensive oil pipelines.
By trying to turn back time and intimidate small but proud Qatar, the Saudis are crossing all conceivable international laws. Riyadh has aggressively threatened to use force if Doha buys S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems from Moscow. But Qatari politicians firmly replied that all decisions regarding the purchase of weapons are the sovereign right of the country. Qatari Ambassador to Russia Fahad bin Mohammed Al Attiyah stressed that this blockade will not prevent Doha from expanding cooperation with all the countries of the world. He added that Qatar continues to develop its economy and will stay open to the world, establishing new ties in the conditions of the ongoing blockade. In particular, the Ambassador noted the development of mutual relations with Russia, primarily in the field of investment. “Our relations are moving in the right direction. This year we’re celebrating the Russia-Qatar Cross Year of Culture: 42 events will be held, Russian citizens will be able to visit our emirate without a visa, and we hope that a similar decision will be taken in regard to the citizens of Qatar,” the Ambassador said.
Director General of the Al-Quds Arab Center for Political Studies Oraib Rantawi holds a similar opinion. “Unfortunately, the crisis in the Gulf affects the lives of ordinary people, it creates serious problems for business, for relations between families. But except for Kuwait, no one is offering serious initiatives to solve the crisis,” he said, adding that he sees no serious prerequisites for the solution of the crisis in the Persian Gulf.
To this we can only add that Qatar, thanks to the carefully thought-out policy of its Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is simply too rich to agree to the requirements proposed by the Saudi coalition. Among the first to fall victim to the blockade was the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG) format of cooperation. It remains unclear how it will function in the future since Doha is not ready to go back to the previous level of cooperation with Riyadh, while Saudi Arabia will not tolerate Qatar’s independence.
New times have come. Having decided to take over the majority of the world market and push aside competitors, especially Russia, Saudi “wise-men” drastically increased oil production which led to a collapse in “black gold ” prices from $120 to $45. Once bathed in gold, the Saudis must now count their money to fill a large deficit of the Royal budget. Only the wise Emir of Qatar does not experience such difficulties: although the price of gas is tied to the price of oil, LNG does not depend on either. Of course, it is impossible to accurately calculate this Arabian country’s riches, but apparently, the small emirate is now wealthier than the unwise rulers of Saudi Arabia with their risky oil venture.
The end to the story came when Riyadh decided to demonstrate its strength and submit Doha to its will, believing that it can’t be too difficult to handle such a small country. Two great Arabian friends – the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman al Saud and Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan – decided to punish their rival, the Emir of Qatar Tamim Ibn Hamad al Thani, and a year ago announced severe sanctions against the Emirate, breaking off not only diplomatic contacts, but all contacts with Doha. By putting pressure on other Arab States, these “big brothers” forced them to participate in such provocations of Qatar. However, small but proud Qatar calmly coped with all these hardships and did not succumb.
And now, with the construction of the canal we see new provocations which will completely alter the ecology in the north of the Arabian Peninsula. It’s impossible to tell what political and economic hardships this will bring to the region of the Persian Gulf, primarily Saudi Arabia, whose current ruler- Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud – not only keeps failing in his endeavors, but is making one mistake after another on the international scene.
Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”