debkafile Exclusive: Ambitious Saudi-Egyptian-Kuwaiti plan for two bridges to span Gulf of Aqaba could block Israel’s outlet to Red Sea

One bridge across the Tiran Strait will span a distance of 25 km from the Saudi mainland at Ras el-Sheik Humayd to Tiran island; the second will carry traffic up to the Egyptian Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, becoming the first direct link between Arabia and Africa.
debkafile reports: Israel was not advised of the $3bn project or informed how international shipping in the Tiran Strait would be regulated – even though its military and economic interests are vitally affected.
The Gulf of Aqaba through Tiran Strait is Israel’s southern sea outlet to and from Eilat Port. International oil tankers put in at Eilat port, a link in the oil and gas pipeline to the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon and on from there to Europe and the Far East. It is also Israel’s export route to the Far East.
The 1967 Israel-Arab war flared when Egypt blockaded the Tiran Strait by deploying artillery batteries at Sharm el Sheik.
debkafile‘s military sources add further the double bridge will provide Saudi military units dry land access to the Sinai Peninsula and a presence on Israel’s southern border.
Next week, Saudi King Abdullah will lay the foundation stone for the project when he visits the northern military town of Tabuk. The Saudi-Egyptian-Kuwait consortium plans for the project to begin at once and be completed by 2012.
The Saudis see the island of Tiran as the bustling hub of the project, the center of a future bridge authority that will regulate the traffic using the Saudi-Sinai bridges as well as controlling shipping traffic in and out of the Gulf of Aqaba up to Eilat.
At present, the Israeli navy regularly inspects Tiran Island to prevent its use by terrorists including al Qaeda as a jumping off base for attacks on its merchant shipping through the Tiran Strait.
New Egyptian military and naval units are to guard the bridges’ terminal at Sharm el Sheik, while Saudi armored and air force units at the Tabuk base will secure the Arabian end.
The project highlights the dynamic nature of Abdullah’s reign in the oil kingdom. It contrasts sharply with Israel’s strategic, military and economic stagnation in the last 15 years, during which investment in regional or even national development projects has shrunk to nil despite a financial boom.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources report that Egypt stands to gain enormously from the bridge link: Its Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik will boom as the focal point of expanded air, commercial and overland traffic between Africa and Arabia. Cairo foresees the Sinai hotel and tourist center growing into a future Marbella or Abu Dhabi.
Eilat will have to fight harder than ever for a slice of the international tourist trade in the Red Sea region unless Israel pulls its socks up. At present, Israeli entrepreneurs are funneling investments into the purchase of real estate in Manhattan, Moscow and Bucharest for lack of Israeli government initiatives despite the country’s financial prosperity.

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