Impact of Saudi terror attack could have been great

Saudi Arabia has broken up a huge plot to attack their oil industry:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – Police arrested 172 Islamic militants, some of whom had trained abroad as pilots so they could fly aircraft in attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, the Interior Ministry said Friday. A spokesman said all that remained in the plot “was to set the zero hour.”

The ministry issued a statement saying the detainees were planning to carry out suicide atttacks against “public figures, oil facilities, refineries … and military zones” — some of which were outside the kingdom…

The kingdom…devotes significant resources to defend its oil industry against [such] threats. The government planned to spend $2 billion of its $12 billion defense budget last year to protect the country’s oil sector…

Previous reports have said the country keeps round-the-clock helicopter and F-15 fighter patrols over its export terminals, with as many as 30,000 troops protecting the oil infrastructure.

Although one’s first impulse is to say “they deserve it”, a successful attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure would be a tremendous blow to the West. Such an event could cause the price of oil to double or more overnight. Even though the US gets only about 7 or 8 percent of the oil it consumes from Saudi Arabia, the impact of the price increase would be enormous. The US economy, already imperiled by high levels of public and private debt and a large current account deficit, could be seriously destabilized. We could see a sharp increase in inflation and interest rates, and a stock market plunge as starters.

One major beneficiary would be Iran. Iran’s oil industry is much less efficient than that of Saudi Arabia, and indeed current Saudi attempts to keep oil prices stable are in part aimed at the hostile Iranian regime. A sudden flow of cash would reinforce Ahmadinijad’s regime and allow it to spend even more on its nuclear program.

In fact, even though the terrorists that have been arrested appear to be al-Qaeda Sunni types, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that Iran had provided support for them in money, weapons, training, or other forms.

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