AQ has enjoyed mixed success with maritime terror plots, with a notable exception being the October 2000 attack on USS Cole in Aden Harbor which killed seventeen US Navy Sailors. The desire of AQ’s senior leadership to disrupt global oil movement persists though, as revealed in the documents and media recovered from the assault on UBL’s compound. But does AQ have a more coherent maritime strategy? Some historical perspective is helpful in understanding the role of seapower in AQ’s planning and operations.
Despite its oil wealth, Saudi Arabia faces severe, long-term domestic energy shortages that it plans to address through the development of nuclear power. President George W. Bush agreed in 2008 to help the Saudis do this, and in the past two years the kingdom has reached nuclear consulting agreements with several countries. Now news reports that Saudi Arabia is preparing to begin negotiations with the United States on a formal nuclear cooperation treaty have predictably touched off speculation about the Kingdom’s true intentions and about whether commercial nuclear energy could become a pathway to the development of nuclear weapons. It is widely believed among policymakers and strategic analysts in Washington and in many Middle Eastern capitals that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia will feel compelled to do the same — a belief that was reinforced when King Abdullah, in a WikiLeaks cable, was reported to have told American officials this outcome would be inevitable.
The following C-SPAN simulation is fascinating:
Former White House officials, senior retired military officers, and a former oil executive participated in a simulated disruption of the global oil supply. They portrayed members of the president’s cabinet, giving recommendations about how to deal with an attack on a major Saudi oil field.
Update: “How Merkel Decided to End Nuclear Power,” Judy Dempsey (New York Times) via SWJ Twitter feed. “Another factor is the likelihood that Germany, which already gets more than one third of its natural gas from Russia, will grow more dependent.”