Saudi Arabia is pushing ahead with its plans to troll Qatar by turning it into an island
YOUR eyes could easily glaze over Qatar on a map.
At 11,571sq km, the entire country is smaller in size than Greater Sydney, with roughly half the population.
But this tiny and extremely wealthy nation currently sits at the centre of a major feud in the Middle East, and it could face destruction at the hands of its only neighbour.
WAR ON A TINY COUNTRY
Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries on Earth, largely thanks to having one of the world’s largest natural-gas and oil reserves.
Its total GDP is approximately $US124,930 ($A173,840) per person — the highest in the world, according to IMF data.
But the tiny country faces an ongoing feud with a number of its larger Middle Eastern rivals, including Saudi Arabia, the only nation it shares a border with.
In June last year, the Saudi kingdom and three of its biggest allies — Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — announced they were severing diplomatic ties with Qatar, and suspending travel to and from the country.
This quart of nations, led by Saudi Arabia, accused Qatar of sponsoring radical terrorist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic State.
In May last year, Qatar’s state-run news agency published an article praising Israel and Iran — both of which are rivals of Saudi Arabia. Qatar claimed it was fake news, but the excuse fell on deaf ears.
It didn’t help when Qatar’s leader, Sheikh Tamim, phoned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to congratulate him on his re-election — a move that enraged the Saudi kingdom.
The reasons for Saudi Arabia’s feud with Iran is more complicated, but a lot of it has to do with religious differences and political instability caused by uprisings across the Arab world since 2011.
The point is, Saudi Arabia was pissed.
And with that, Qatar found its only land border with the outside world barred, cutting off a key route for food and construction imports.
At the same time, its state-owned airline was barred from using its neighbours’ airspace, and Qatari residents were expelled from the boycotting countries.
Mediation efforts led by Kuwait and the US, which has its largest Middle East air base in Qatar, have failed to resolve the dispute.
Libya, Yemen and the Maldives have since joined the feud — on the Saudi side — leaving Qatar even more isolated in the region.
PLANS TO BUILD A CANAL
Saudi Arabia is now pushing ahead with plans to troll Qatar by turning it into an island.
In April, the pro-government Sabq news website reported government plans to build a channel 60km long and 200m wide stretching across Saudi Arabia’s border with Qatar.
The “Salwa Canal” project would effectively turn the peninsula into an island with no border countries.
For a long time, no one knew whether the kingdom was being serious or just trolling Qatar. But on Friday, a Saudi official hinted the kingdom was moving forward with the plan.
“I am impatiently waiting for details on the implementation of the Salwa island project, a great, historic project that will change the geography of the region,” Saud al-Qahtani, a senior adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said on Twitter.