Terrorism: The Saudis as the Sultans of Spin


April 4, 2006: Inside Saudi Arabia, Islamic terrorists again failed to carry out a bombing attack on oil facilities. Three weeks after the failed February attack, police seized trucks painted to resemble oil company vehicles, and packed with explosives. In the last week, at least 40 more arrests were made of terrorist suspects, including eight more believed involved in the February attack. A large arms cache was also discovered, and more documents were seized.

The terrorist attempts against the oil industry have gotten the attention of the average Saudi, who knows that their economic well being depends on keeping the oil flowing. That has kept the police tip line ringing, and made it difficult for the terrorists to pull off any successful attacks. In fact, most of the known Islamic terrorist leaders have been killed or captured because other Saudis turned them in. While most Saudis are Islamic conservatives, they don't believe that the kingdom would be better off economically with the Islamic radicals in charge. Saudi Arabia is already a pretty conservative place, even by Islamic standards. The government has managed to portray al Qaeda as a bunch of maniacs who are in league with the devil. This is the best bit of counter-terrorism ever pulled off by the Saudis.

But there are other reasons why the oil facilities have proved difficult to hit. First, there's the money. In addition to what the oil company spends on security, about two billion dollars a year (17 percent of the defense budget) is spent on oil facility security by the military. That translates into 30,000 military personnel involved in oil facility security. That means F-15 and helicopter patrols in the air all the time, and constant naval patrols off shore. Although it doesn't get a lot of publicity, the U.S. Navy is a constant presence in helping to protect the Saudi oil terminals and coastal operations.

Despite all that, some terrorist attacks have succeeded. The Saudis estimate that they have foiled about 90 percent of the terrorist attacks so far. Those that succeeded were generally against "soft" (less vital, and less well guarded) targets. The Saudis expect more attacks, because in the heart of Islam, there is never a shortage of young men looking for a desperate cause involving a Mission from God. High unemployment and a large number of fiery clerics keeps terrorist recruiters busy. In addition, there are now more foreign terrorists showing up. Iraq has grown increasingly hostile to Islamic terrorists, and more of them are heading for Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis have had a good deal of success in curbing infiltration from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, helped by the declining "demand" for Islamic terrorists in Iraq. But Saudi officials are intercepting a lot of infiltrators from Iraq into their country ( several thousand have been detained in recent months). As a result, the Saudis are asking the U.S. to improve security on the Iraqi side of the long desert frontier between the two countries. The Saudis would prefer that the Iraqis keep their terrorists, and deal with them in Iraq.


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