2006 February 24 Friday
Attack On Saudi Oil Facility Foiled

Al Qaeda could put themselves back on the map as a serious threat to the world if they could manage to knock out Saudi Arabia's biggest oil processing facility. Well, they tried. But the Abqaiq oil facility was unharmed by the attack.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 24 — An attempted suicide bomb attack on Saudi Arabia's sprawling Abqaiq oil facility was thwarted today when guards opened fire on two explosive-laden cars, causing them to detonate at a security gate about a mile from the main entrance, the Saudi Interior Ministry said. The attack was the first on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure, and ends a yearlong lull in violence in the kingdom.

Seems to me if Al Qaeda can launch only one attack in Saudi Arabia in a whole year and that attack was lame then it is not a very powerful organization any more. Though they apparently managed to kill at least two guards and injured others. That's bad. But it is pretty small stuff compared to all the murders that happen in the world in a year.

Also, if these guys wanted to ram their way through a gate they'd need hardier vehicles and more people to take out the guards. They couldn't even make their way past an outer security perimeter let alone the main gate. Suicide bomb vehicles aren't effective means to break through layered security because the vehicles are full of explosives that can get set off by defensive fire.

Two thirds of Saudi oil passes through this facility.

But the assault on the Abqaiq compound near the Persian Gulf, through which two-thirds of Saudi oil exports pass, was the first on a significant Saudi oil facility. Oil experts warned that other attacks are likely.

Imagine an attack on that facility that succeeded. The price of oil would shoot up over $100 per barrel. Can you say deep global world recession? Sure!

The attack took place in Saudi Arabia's Shia majority region.

There was no immediate confirmation of who was behind the attack, which took place in a region where Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority is centered.

Likely Sunnis were behind the attack. The Shias in Saudi Arabia live where all oil fields are located. So Sunnis have to go to Shia regions to blow up Saudi oil facilities.

Al Qaeda has called for attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but last September al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri called for attacks on oil facilities, saying oil revenues went to what he called "the enemies of Islam".

The Saudis and some outside experts claim this attack shows that Saudi security is very good.

"The security measures at the oil facilities are better than those at the royal palaces," said Fares bin Houzam, an expert on al Qaeda. "There is no danger to other facilities."

Obaid and Houzam both said the attempted attack was proof al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia has been weakened by a state crackdown.

My guess is the best bet Al Qaeda has for knocking out a big Saudi oil facility would be to recruit some people who work inside such facilities. But Al Qaeda would have to have a pretty extensive recruiting organization with a lot of isolated cells which would be able to get into contact with a lot of oil facility workers in order to have decent chances to succeed in such recruitment.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 February 24 05:44 PM  Terrorists Activities

Stephen said at February 24, 2006 7:05 PM:

That's one of the reason I believe that AQ wasn't responsible for the Samarra mosque attack. AQ's M.O. is to use suicide as a method of delivery of the explosive, whereas it looks like Samarra used people in police uniforms who planted explosives and then made their escape - very un-AQ.

Engineer-Poet said at February 25, 2006 8:08 AM:

So you're saying it could have been the equivalent of the Reichstag fire?

Stephen said at February 25, 2006 7:13 PM:

Maybe. To further the analogy, perhaps a militant Shia death squad (and the military arm of one of the political groups) thought the politicians were about to agree that such groups should be disbanded or folded into government security forces. So the group decides to prove how crucial it is that they be allowed to continue hunting Sunni, and they decide that the best way to do that is to prove how evil the Sunni really are by blowing up a Shia icon (for surely only a Sunni would be interested in blowing up a Shia shrine).

broodrack said at February 25, 2006 7:34 PM:

Of course, in reality, Amadinejad ordered it.

Invisible Scientist said at February 25, 2006 7:52 PM:

I like the Reichtag fire analogy... It seems that the guerilla war that the Sunnis are waging, is gradually becoming focused on the Shias, as the "terror" is gradually being applied by the Shias onto the Sunnis. There are articles that the Shias are torturing the Sunnis in terrible ways... As soon as the US leaves Iraq, the pro-Iranian Shias will rule the Sunnis with an iron fist. Additionally, given that the oil-rich regions of Saudi Arabia is populated with Shias, it follows that as soon as the US loses ground in the Middle East, Iran will have the capability to gain ownership of most of the oil in Saudi Arabia and Iraq...

Marvin said at February 26, 2006 8:52 AM:

Don't let your thinking get stuck in a rut by assuming all Sunni terror actions follow one script. Most of the commentary here on Iraq is singularly uninformed. Likely because people get their news from news services whose reporters cower in their hotel rooms rather than risking doing any actual reporting.
But then, most Shias in Iraq are not pro-Iran at all. They are pro-arab, pro-Iraq instead. The Sadr militia is an exception to the rule, not the rule itself.

Fox Hound said at February 28, 2006 12:06 PM:

"But then, most Shias in Iraq are not pro-Iran at all. They are pro-arab, pro-Iraq instead. The Sadr militia is an exception to the rule, not the rule itself."

Do you mean the Badr Brigade?

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