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  • Energy, oil supply disruptions, and terrorism. The whole of it….

    Posted by onparkstreet on August 13th, 2011 (All posts by )

    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.

    Al Qaeda’s Seapower Strategy by Chris Rawley, Small Wars Journal

    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.

    Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Policy by Thomas W. Lippman, Saudi-US Relations Information Service

    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.

    Global Oil Disruption Simulation, C-SPAN

    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.”


    4 Responses to “Energy, oil supply disruptions, and terrorism. The whole of it….”

    1. onparkstreet Says:

      Since I excerpted the most provocative aspects of the report, I feel compelled to add this cautionary note from the report as well:

      Money is not an issue — if destitute North Korea can develop nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia surely has the resources to pursue such a program. With oil prices above $90 a barrel, Riyadh is flush with cash. But the acquisition or development of nuclear weapons would be provocative, destabilizing, controversial and extremely difficult for Saudi Arabia, and ultimately would be more likely to weaken the kingdom than strengthen it. The kingdom has committed itself to an industrialization and economic development program that depends on open access to global markets and materials; becoming a nuclear outlaw would be fatal to those plans.

      – Madhu

    2. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Tony Cordesman’s paper on an Israeli-Iranian nuclear exchange also discusses the effect on world oil supply.

    3. dearieme Says:

      It’s interesting that a nuclear-armed Israel hasn’t made the Saudis feel obliged to buy nukes.

    4. onparkstreet Says:

      Thanks MK! You’ve posted that paper before and I keep meaning to read it :)

      BTW, I tried to look for some Alan Drury books at the library after you mentioned how good they were, but the only copies available looked kind of sketchy. It’s a good library and the books in very good condition but this pair were not at all. Like someone dumped coffee on them. Will likely order a copy or two from Amazon.

      Dearieme: Now don’t go pointing out the obvious :) No one is remotely worried that Israel will use nuclear weapons irresponsibly.

      Yet, the Saudis feel obliged because they are in a Sunni-Shia competition throughout the Mideast with Iran. Why do I feel that we are handling this badly and being used by our old Saudi “partners?”

      I am not happy with our foreign policy mandarins at the moment….

      – Madhu

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