The Saudi Interior Ministry announced yesterday that it had uncovered a plot to attack Saudi oil facilities and arrested 113 suspected members of al-Qaeda. The 113 militants reportedly were organized into three cells and had been planning suicide attacks on oil and security facilities in Saudi Arabia’s oil-producing Eastern Province. Fifty two of the suspects were from Yemen, which has become the primary base for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula after many cells based in Saudi Arabia were uprooted in previous Saudi crackdowns.
Al-Qaeda long has been focused on attacking oil-related targets in Saudi Arabia. In May 2003 it launched car bomb attacks against the housing compounds of foreign oil workers. In February 2006 al-Qaeda terrorists launched a failed attack on a vital Saudi oil processing facility at Abqaiq. Such attacks not only weaken the perceived power of the Saudi government, but if successful could help to drive up oil prices, punishing western oil-importing countries, particularly the United States, the world’s leading oil importer.
In 2008, the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis conducted a simulation of a major al-Qaeda attack on Saudi oil facilities, combined with attacks on oil tankers, that produced a massive oil price spike that almost doubled world oil prices and triggered a loss to the United States of $119 billion of Gross Domestic Product and 1.5 million jobs in the first year after the attack. Let’s hope that the Saudi security services have successfully blunted the al-Qaeda threat to Saudi oil facilities and continue to do so in the future.