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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 2/26/2006 2:42:26 PM EDT
Life imitates art

Minerva at Terrorism Unveiled has a detailed analysis of the failed attack on a Saudi oil production facility here. Interestingly, the Abqaiq oil production complex was the setting for a hypothetical scenario in a recent book authored by a former CIA analyst Robert Baer to illustrate a 'nightmare' attack on the energy heart of the West.

The Counterterrorism blog amplifies on the importance of Abqaiq as an economc target by quoting from Baer.

Former CIA officer Robert Baer describes this site as "the most vulnerable point and most spectacular target in the Saudi oil system." The huge facility processes around two-thirds of Saudi Arabia's oil output and is the single largest oil processing facility in the world. Oil industry experts on impact of successful attack: "If this has an impact on exports and production, it would be close to one of the things the industry fears the most" - "To have this happen in the world's largest oil-producing nation is what's really got people frightened." Oil markets are already touchy over Nigerian militants' continued attacks on that country's energy sector, a topic of Doug Farah's posts here and here.

Both Terrorism Unveiled and the Counterterrorism blog note that al-Qaeda, which both consider the likeliest perp, has long thought about the utility of an "oil weapon" against the West.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross wrote an article, "Al Qaeda's Oil Weapon," in the "Weekly Standard" last year, a longer version of his September 27 CT Blog post. ... On December 7, Daveed posted about Al Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri's call for attacks on oil facilities in a video. "I call on the holy warriors to concentrate their campaigns on the stolen oil of the Muslims, most of the revenues of which go to the enemies of Islam." Daveed reminds me that the December 2004 tape by Osama Bin Laden includes this order (MEMRI translation): "Focus your operations on it [oil production], especially in Iraq and the Gulf area, since this [lack of oil] will cause them to die off [on their own]." An early attack by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq was of an oil terminal there, killing 3 Americans


My own thoughts is the attacks are less an "oil weapon" than an economic terror weapon. The scale of attacks which could physically halt or seriously interdict global petroleum flows would probably be past the capability of any terrorist group. However, by introducing psychological uncertainty into the oil market terrorists can spike the price, and hence the amount of money that the world pays the Middle East, to the cumulative tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. It's a manipulation of the market by perps who do not hesitate to describe themselves as victims. ""I call on the holy warriors to concentrate their campaigns on the stolen oil of the Muslims", Zawahiri said.

posted by wretchard at 12:56 PM | 20 comments

Link Posted: 2/26/2006 3:56:48 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/26/2006 3:57:42 PM EDT by ArmdLbrl]
February 25, 2006
al-Qaeda Offensive on the Arabian Peninsula
Refinery in Saudi Arabia attacked following the destruction of the Golden Mosque in Samarra

Fresh from the destruction of the dome of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, al-Qaeda has struck again on the Arabian Peninsula. The target was the oil refinery in Abqaiq. The Counterterrorism Blog and Terrorism Unveiled provide comprehensive roundups on the strike. Two suicide car-bombs were directed at the gates of the facility but were repelled by the security guards before they could enter the main compound. Asharq Alawsat provides the details of the strike:

The attack began about 3pm. The two cars used in the attack had been disguised to look like ARAMCO vehicles, enabling the terrorists to enter the complex. But the tight security around the oil plant foiled their plans and the guards did not allow them to enter. The terrorists then shot at the security guards and exploded their cars. Thirteen Security guards were injured and were taken to hospital for treatment
In exclusive statements to Asharq al Awsat, Lieutenant Mansour al Turki, Interior Ministry spokesman, said that it was difficult to tell how many terrorists had participate in the failed attack as their bodies were blown to pieces when the cars they were driving exploded.

The Abqaiq facility is one of the largest and vulnerable plants in Saudi Arabia, and while the strike was unsuccessful at damaging the infrastructure, the price of oil has jumped none the less. The mere threat of the disruption of the flow of oil causes the markets to react negatively.

The timing of the attack indicates al-Qaeda may be in a period of increased operational tempo throughout the region. Past major al-Qaeda attacks have come in bursts, and the recent set of attacks appears to be no different. Minerva, at Terrorism Unveiled, indicates al-Qaeda plots are no longer centrally planned, but farmed out to the regional groups which receive financial or logistical support. However the proximity of the Samarra and Abqaiq achieve the desired effects for al-Qaeda – large scale operations designed to disrupt the governments of Iraq and Saudi Arabia while demonstrating al-Qaeda's power and relevance in the region. We think the attacks were coordinated.

Saudi Arabia has been waging a war against al-Qaeda within the confines of the Kingdom's borders for several years. The Saudis have conducted numerous operations against the group, and al-Qaeda has had some successes in striking at targets within the Kingdom. Osama bin Laden has explicitly called for strikes within Saudi Arabia, and has called for al-Qaeda to focus on the petrolium industry; ““Take jihad (holy war) to stop (the Americans) getting hold of (the oil). Concentrate your operations on the oil, in particular in Iraq and the Gulf.”

Unlike the operation in Samarra, which al-Qaeda attempts to pin on the Shiites, al-Qaeda has taken responsibility for this attack, “With grace from God alone, hero mujahideen from the squadron of Sheikh Osama bin Laden succeeded today (Friday)...in penetrating a plant for refining oil and gas in the town of Abqaiq in the eastern part of the peninsula, and then allowed two car bombs in driven by two martyrdom seekers... These plants help in stealing the Muslims' wealth of oil.”

Saudi security forces have had great success in rooting out al-Qaeda operatives, and many of the high-value targets have been killed or captured. The fact the al-Qaeda teams could not penetrate the security of the Abqaiq facility makes it likely their was no assistance from the inside, and the security is well trained and alert to the threat. They had better remain alert, as al-Qaeda views the Saudi oil infrastructure as the Kingdom's jugular, and will strike at these facilities again.

By Bill Roggio | Posted February 25, 2006 | Permalink | Print Article

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