Suicide attack on Saudi refinery thwarted

From the BBC:

Saudi security forces have foiled an apparent suicide car bomb attack on a major oil production facility in the eastern town of Abqaiq.
Update [2006-2-25 9:38:6 by Admin]: James Kunstler emails to clarify a point brought up in the comments:
In my book, "The Long Emergency," I said it would only take a camel and a few pounds of Semtex to bring down a pipeline, not an oil refinery. I don't think that's too fine a distinction.
Update [2006-2-24 15:2:0 by Admin]: We've been having some technical difficulties this afternoon. Hopefully the site is now up for good.
At least two cars carrying explosives were fired on at the plant, Saudi officials have said. BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the attack is the first direct assault on Saudi oil production.

The al-Qaeda network on the Arabian Peninsula has long called for attacks on Saudi oil installations.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi said output at the facility, which handles about two-thirds of the country's oil production, was unaffected by the attack.

Oil security analysts have estimated that a serious attack on the facility could halve Saudi exports for up to a year.

On news of the attack, the price of crude oil for April delivery leapt as much as 3.4% to $62.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its biggest gain since 17 January.

More about Abqaiq from Reuters:
Former Middle East CIA field officer Robert Baer has described Abqaiq as "the most vulnerable point and most spectacular target in the Saudi oil system."

Abqaiq handles crude pumped from the giant Ghawar field and ships it off to terminals Ras Tanura -- the world's biggest offshore oil loading facility -- and Juaymah.

"It's not clear what damage there is but Abqaiq is the world's most important oil facility," said Gary Ross, CEO at PIRA Energy consultancy in New York.

Other news story links: here, and here.
Failed attempt = 3% price jump.

Successful attempt = ?

Not to worry!  Our economist friends have repeatedly assured us that the Invisible Hand of the market place will always ensure that there is enough energy available to provide the amount we need/want.

(Note that I deliberately refrained from using  the terms 'supply' and 'demand'. That was to preempt a comment from some literal-minded economist that, by definition, supply always equals demand, as determined by price. While technically this is true, it gives me little comfort to know that if supplies are cut to say a third of what they are now, a gasoline price of $20/gal will bring the demand right in line with the supply.)

Notice that, of late, energy supply problems have had very little to do with geology and a lot to do with a level of  human conflict that appears to be getting more virulent.

Can we PLEASE stop painting all economists (like me) with such an absurdly broad and wildly inaccurate brush?  PLEASE???
Sorry!  I know it was a cheap shot, but I just couldn't resist :-)
IMO a good economist must have a real world experience or at least same more detailed knowledge about areas outside pure economics. Good candidates are management, politics, engineering or anything that can confront you with the realities outside your cabinet, which are pretty messy as a general rule.

This helps not to take yourself and the economic theories much too seriously. Yes, there is a whole lot of truth in them, but the slippery part of the economic theories is that in some circumstances they are 100% valid, in some are 50% valid and in others may even produce disasters if applied.

That's why a feel a little bit uncomfortable with the term "economist" (I have also graduated economics). Besides the fact that there is no such profession it somehow detaches the set of problems they solve from reality (ok, may be it is my perception only). It puts it in line with other pretty much detached terms like "The Economy", "The Market", "The Invisible Hand" etc. etc.

I agree completely, especially with the part about the need for real world experience.  I've worked as a programmer and software designer, technical writer, computer consultant, woodworker (running my own business), and porn star.  (OK, not so much on that last one.)  And those experiences really have done a lot to shape my views of which parts of economic theory hold water and which ones leak like a sieve.

I'm convinced that many of the Evil Economists we see making absurd "don't worry, be happy" claims about the magic of the market are the ones who've never held a job where economics was a contact sport and not a pleasant, easily graphed and analyzed abstraction.

So with a tightly supplied market, the ability to withstand production shortfalls is diminished .  Hence bumpy plateau.  The degree of oversupply gives the amount of wiggle at the plateau.

So the question that needs to be asked is:  Which gives first.  The supply is on a geologic curve driven by an unsustainable world economy.

Leaving AGW aside.

An ego rich field has to expect some blowback ;-)

I'm reading "Fooled by Randomness" now and have to admit that I am enjoying the comments dropped about economists.

I know economists are not all mad, but really after spending a near century believing the unbelievable ... something had to give.  Imagine living in this world and believing in rational actors (or even that markets average out as if we were)!

Ah well, given the new move to experiments and brain scans I expect the field to build some respect.

What was the quote at the beginning of Deffeyes' last book?

"There are two types of people that believe in infinite growth against a finite resource base--madmen and economists."

(I guess that we could modify it to say 99% of economists.)

I've been waiting for something like this attack for years now. The "crude" nature of the assault is kind of a surprise. Did these guys actually think they could drive two cars packed with explosives through the entrance to Abqaiq and blow up some part of the facility there? This is one of the most heavily guarded industrial compounds in the world.

But I do wonder if it presages something bigger and more sophisticated elsewhere. A diversion perhaps? We've always known the intention was there. On the other hand, maybe Al-Qaeda is simply not capable of pulling off anything more threatening than this.

With the pending civil war in Iraq, tensions with Iran and the election of Hamas, things seem to be heating up in the Middle East. I'm surprised oil prices aren't in the $70s.


A key metric for their success is press coverage, not just barrels removed from the market.  To that extent, I think they had a good day.  Cost: 3 vehicles, a squad of privates, and some kilos of semtex.  Benefit: validation that they have the right strategic target in mind, better operational knowledge, and some serious street cred.

The Iraqi IED's come to mind.  The first generation bombs were crude and relatively easy to detect and mitigate.  But they learned.  Now the devices are more sophisticated technically.  And more problematically, IED's have become a decentralized cottage industry, very difficult to root out.  And cheapo-deapo when compared to the cost of defense.

They're studying today's tape.  They'll learn more.  And eventually they'll have a really good day; either through luck or skill.

WTI may have only gone up a few bucks, but Rentech shot up like it had escape velocity.  Selfishly, I do want to be on the profitable side of the PO curve.  Cripes, where did my altruism go?  I know I had it this morning!


Hmm...  Not sure that anyone could count this operation as a success.   They must have meant to actually disrupt supplies.  Additionally while the planners might learn from the incident, the actual bombers have been rendered into little bits.
I'm sure the actual bombers were expendable peons.  Possibly not even real members of al-Qaeda or whatever group was behind this.  The people with valuable skills aren't allowed to blow themselves up.  
from this - , "What's worrisome is that the various bombings that have taken place in these complexes in Saudi Arabia so far have all had the markings of being an inside job.''
How I'd do it - find a plant worker, how many ,000 work there?, and suborn him (if he isn't already ideologically so inclined) into taking to work a slightly-heavier-than-usual lunch pail for a while (250g of semtex x however many days adds up to a tidy pile, and as a local he'd probably have an idea of the best place to put it for maximum effect. At an appropriate time, eg when the first bomb of the war against iran lands, set it off.
Bingo.  This is precisely why security at large, centralized facilities (whether related to energy or something else) is so insanely difficult.  With today's weapons technology all you need is one guy on the inside to cause almost limitless havoc with an installation.

And now that CBS is reporting that al Qaeda is claiming this attack was part of a series of operations, it seems that they've finally figured out the obvious way to hurt the West.  Even if they don't manage to do any real damage to the energy infrastructure, a steady drumbeat of failed attacks will still add a more or less permanent terrorism premium to the price of oil.

Kinda sad in the internet age that all they have to do is surf the news, columnists, and blogs.

I was reading somone .. John Robb? (link below), about a month ago talking about how a worldwide targeting of oil supplies would be harmful to the west.  And then it happens.

Jeez if any of you guys have good ideas, keep them to yourselves.

My guess is that you are being sarcastic here....?

The importance of oil and all associated production and distribution infrastructure is a given.

Read "Blood and Oil" or similiar books to give an idea of how much this has been talked about just in relation to the US military, let alone private security considerations.

The "badguys" or "evil doers" know all about things like wiretapping and key infrastructure vulnerabilities.  They know a fair amount about other things like markets and about conducting their eery public relations campaign as well.

The notion that free discourse on sites such as this aids, abetts, or gives comfort to "the enemy" has either got to be sarcasm or a mistake of some sort, I think.

With the "Jeez" line?  Not exactly sarcastic.

I really am thinking about this verus "native insurgent" campaigns from 100 or 150 years ago.  It really was different when the tribal fighters could not read the Times of London each week to see authors discuss "what would hurt us most."

Maybe a strategist would say that insurgents now have better intelligence of the opposition's political and economic conditions.

That's not something we are going to change (we aren't going to stop talking, or blocade Iraqi internet connections) ... but it does create a change.  We have info-saavy insurgents.

I'm of the opinion that knocking off a tanker would be much easier and cause 10X more ripples in the west.  I think they were not targeting the oil business in general, preferring a specific attack directed at the Saud's.  In fact, if the attack was successful, it would probably have had such a tremendous blowback on them from the LIPS, it might have damaged much of their support within the country.  And from other posts, at least some people think AQ may not be thinking about a "shoot to kill" policy if the target is Aramco, preferring rather to take it alive.  Looking at it from that perspective, and in combination with the hardness of the target, it seems to me that AQ's goal was nothing more than to send the Sauds a special delivery message; "Even after the Grand Crackdown, we are still active in the Kingdom.    
You really don't have to use explosives.  Someone who knows what they are doing and gets into the control room for an hour could severely damage the plant.  In the U.S. we have refinery explosions during shutdowns and startups, and that's just by stupidity.  If the plant is not well operated and has had regular maintenance, the possibilities for wrecking it are endless.
Absolutely correct.  Most of these processes won't run with human interference, good or bad.  Most operators, other than just making minor adjustments, basically have only 3 real choices, START, STOP or ESD (emergengy shut down).  The latest automatic control systems really don't want humans F****** with them at all.  Except I disagree that you have to know what you're doing; I think it actually help's if you don't.  Really doesn't matter much; you just start clipping those little cables with all the pretty colored wires inside until you're on the way to the afterlife.  In other words, AQ doesn't have any plant insiders... yet.
[When the first bomb of the war against Iran lands:]

Israel faces unprecedented terror and sabotage attacks from every side and from within its territory from sleeper cells of Arab Israelis. Iran activates trained sleeper terror cells in the Ras Tanura center of Saudi oil refining and shipping. The Eastern province of Saudi Arabia around Ras Tanura contains a disenfranchised Shi'ite minority, which has historically been denied the fruits of the immense Saudi oil wealth. There are some 2 million Shi'ite Muslims in Saudi Arabia. Shi'ites do most of the manual work in the Saudi oilfields, making up 40% of Aramco's workforce.
Iran declares an immediate embargo of deliveries of its 4 million barrels of oil a day. It threatens to sink a large oil super-tanker in the narrows of the Strait of Hormuz, choking off 40% of all world oil flows, if the world does not join it against the US-Israeli action.
The strait has two 1-mile-wide channels for marine traffic, separated by a 2-mile-wide buffer zone, and is the only sea passage to the open ocean for much of OPEC oil. It is Saudi Arabia's main export route.

Then it gets worse

That quote about "inside jobs" came from Matt Simmons. While I acknowledge the danger of this kind of planning, the idea that ramming the gates to the Abquaq with two cars filled with explosives and suicide bombers is simply ridiculous.
I'm not sure about the compound bombings.  One of those used to be named the B2 compound and was located near the Royal Palaces in Riyadh.  Boeing had their AWAC target aquisition programmers living there with other flying mushroom support techs not very long ago, but had moved out.  Other companies had taken over the compound and started billing their mideast workers in there when it was attacked.  Could have been that AQ was after Boeing/US interests, but missed and wound up hitting the mostly Muslim staff that were there at the time.  AQ took some heavy "local critisism" for it, something I had not heard expressed before, or since.
I have no special knowledge of the Abqaiq oil center incident, but how do we know it's not a dirty bomb attack?  We are supposed to trust the Saudis after reading Simmons work?

Think back after 9/11 when the GWB administration at first stated, in an explanation given by then EPA administrator Christine Whitman, that toxic fumes and asbestos dust emanating from the collapsed WTC towers were safe and not harmful [although see later recanted that position].   If our own government in the US won't tell us the obvious truth after a terrorist attack, what incentive do the more secretive Saudis have to tell the truth?

While perhaps not planned by the higher-ups, the numerous go signals - represented by the appearance of Bin Laden tapes - may mean we will see other small or larger terror attacks soon.

"While perhaps not planned by the higher-ups, the numerous go signals - represented by the appearance of Bin Laden tapes - may mean we will see other small or larger terror attacks soon. "

That's right. It doesn't make sense to me to automatically say 'Al-Qaeda' when something like this happens. I'm basically a proponent of the theory that there are many unrelated or loosely affiliated Islamic terrorist cells and that they often act on their own. In fact, it may be the case that the US in effect 'created' Al-Qaeda by its need for an identifiable single-headed enemy, just like monolithic Communism. In any case, it seems that current US policy is exacerbating the problem massively.

"In fact, it may be the case that the US in effect 'created' Al-Qaeda by its need for an identifiable single-headed enemy, just like monolithic Communism. In any case, it seems that current US policy is exacerbating the problem massively."

the united states did.
see the third installment if you want to skip the first two witch deals with the origins of both the neo-cons and radical Islam.


Let the good times roll.

Though it gives the boot to Kunstler's theory that a pound of Semtex and a camel could put an oil refinery down, the raving mad terror is now staring us right in the face. This will not be the last attack. The question is less a matter of when they get the tactics right, than if. My guess is they may smarten up and use missiles, antitank rockets, or a suicide plane next time. Should the Abqaig facility go down, well, I don't need to tell you masters of the obvious, we may be in for a less than smooth ride.

The Chaotic Era is now in full swing. Now come the fascists, like Bush and his malevolent crowd, ready to quell the inevitable uprisings in order to protect the rich and well placed. The average man and woman will not know what hit them. They will turn on enemies real and imagined, and they will demand the good times continue or someone's head will roll. Anyone with any sense of physics, anyone who has kept up with climate news, anyone who remembers classical economics should be preparing for the rough times ahead. The window of opportunity for preparation has squeaked, and it is now dislodged and closing slowly, inexorably. Will we use this opportunity?

My guess. No.

My guess is the American public will see this window closing, and they will pull down the shade. Brainwashed by decades of Republican blather about no government being good government, they will go to the family's Free Market Altar, the television, and they will worship their consumer god and pray that next year's parade of cool consumer goods will be even better.

Acta est fabula, plaudite!

Don't get that excited.

First these "terrorists" are unlikely to be able to do anything of significance that can cause a change. What they have is a poorly funded ideology vs a multi-billion energy industry and an even better funded military machine that guards it.

Second if events of the sort you imagine do happen, you will not want to be amidst them. "May you live in interesting times" is a curse, not a birthday wish.

In which way do these "terrorists" have a more poorly funded ideolgy and in which way is the multi-billion dollar energy industry and even better funded military machine going to be more efective than is the case in Iraq where 299 attacks have crippled Iraqi oil production?
Iraq is a debacle because currently there is practicaly no state and the locals support the insurgency for various reasons. If we did not invade Iraq there would not be a problem. We gave them the 'enemy' they can fight with and now the whole region hates us even more. What can you expect in such situation?

Doing the same in SA is a whole other business. The royal family has a good grip on the power. Also the population is not likely to support some outsiders disrupting the industry the whole country depends on unless there is a really good cause for that.

Hello LevinK,

Another old saying: "Generally, we live just long enough to regret it".

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

There's no Security like a False sense of Security,
Like a false sense of security I know..

A few Box-cutters and some 'Incompletes' from a Florida Flying Class (and one helluvan audacious notion) took out the WTC, unless you buy in to the 'Planted Detonators' Consp. Theory.  You ever noticed how many oil and gas trucks run around our cities and highways?  There are targets everywhere..

Or as the Sith Lord remarked, "Don't be too proud of this Technical Marvel of yours, only the FORCE.."  

What's a little funding when you've got passionate warriors, ready to give it their all at the word go?  That Well-funded super-military (which might be as misleading a front as the 'poorly funded band of rebels in their little caves'), it's doing double-duty by helping to keep the enemy thoroughly dedicated and invigorated.

How many in the Saudi Royal family? Several thousand on the dole of a few million $ a year each. It is entirely conceivable that amongst these thousands of 'Princes' there are a few disgruntled Wahabbists who will donate a few hundred grand to the jihadist cause. SA is rolling in both money and corruption. I can't believe that money would be hard to come by for a dedicated Wahabbi jihadist bent on driving out the infidels.
Moreover, any such "disgruntled Wahhabists" stand to make a killing in oil futures by funding a relatively cheap operation such as this. The stupid audaciousness of this attack indicates that it was little more than a test. The bombers themselves were expendable - they get their virgins and martyrdom anyways. So throw something high profile at the Saudi oil machine and see what happens. Even if it were not particularly useful for "al-Quaedites" to disrupt the oil, it is a nice way to make a profit in the futures industry so long as you know when such attacks can occur... Am I paranoid? Id this a conspiracy theory? Maybe, but it sounds like a very good way to make a lot of money very quickly so somebody has to be onto it.
Because of the nature of conspiracies, and because of all the B.S. out there from various disinformation sources, I do not think it is possible to either verify or disprove your hypothesis.

However, based on past histories of fiancial manipulations by speculators, similar things have been done at least dozens of times in the past--and perhaps hundreds of times.

The Vietnamese and the Afghanis proved that mighty powers can be humbled by determined resistance.  The Iraqi insurgents have fought the most powerful in history to a strategic standoff.  What they share is not "poorly funded ideology" but moral authority based on resistance to invaders and an advanced fighting method, called 4th Generation War.

My point was that you can not extrapolate the Iraqi situation to Saudi Arabia. Nobody occupied this country, at least not in such a brutal manner as Iraq. Saudi royal family uses 9% of oil revenue, and the whole country wellfare depends on the 91% left. If say oil revenues are halved the princes will not suffer because they have enough accumulated wealth, it is the people that will suffer.

Not very perspective way to fight a revolution, right? I can see the attacks to oil installations in SA as a move against USA, but I don't think these will receive such a local support as in Iraq.

I second the comment by LevinK that we shouldn't read too much into this incident.  (And no one, I repeat NO FRICKIN' ONE, should rely on Kunstler for an analysis of security issues.)

The thing that worries me is Bush being stupid enough to invade Iran, and Iran then being myopic enough to launch some of their many missiles at Saudi oil facilities.  That's a very low probability event, I'm guessing, but it would cause a spasm throughout the oil market and the world economy like nothing anyone here has seen before.

The CDC has genetically reconstructed the Spanish flu, therefore it is easy to surmise that they could have created a whole series of new bugs to accomplish Jay Hanson's brilliant assessment of a hypothetical Pandemic Powerdown.  If just one bug is purposely released first in Iran-- instantly the whole world will align to sequester and/or destroy the populace-- recall my Operation Arabian Gauntlet posting of a few days ago detailing past military exercises in ME.  

Of course, the CDC/CIA/WHO would have pre-constructed the required vaccines-- that is where the blackmail comes in.  This new form of asymetric warfare, where using the magic bullet of Nature's bugs, would be unstoppable for those countries attacked.  Capitulation for help would be almost instantaneous.  This paradigm shift to instantly restructure geo-strategic inflection points would be a logical way for the elites to retain higher degrees of control.

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Yeah. As history shows, the most dangerous terrorists are those we've elected.

Personally I don't believe in the Iranian Mad Max scenario... IMO they are not suiciders up there and can well do the risk assessment math. I even think that the current Iraq "fiasco" was expected (well, probably to a lower extent), but they simply decided that the human life and material cost was worthed.

Nevertheless I'll not rule out Israel bombing Iran with a formal disagreement from US.

   This is the same thought I had...It looks like some deals have been made already with Arab Emirates families for the right to use their ports/facilites as a stageing ground for protection of transport thru the straites....I discount the idea that the saudi secret police can stop destruction of the royals and establishment of a "pure" Wahabi caliph theocracy.The royals have fed the tiger many years now...a whole generation has grown in the mandessas with pure radical islam as their education...The fuze is lit I think...make your powerdown preps NOW.
There have been attacks on Saudi refineries before, haven't there?  I seem to recall at least one of them was an "inside job."  None have been particularly successful.
Fortunately, a modern oil refinery is a very large operation spread out over many acres of land. As such, you need quite a bit more than Kunstler's  'a camel and a pound of Semtex' to do serious damage. For example, just take a look at how hard it was for the Allies during WW II to permanently take out the Plostoi (sp?) oil facilities in Rumania. Typically, there'd be a bombing raid that mostly just took out some pipes, pumps, and tankage, but then in a few days the thing would be back to more or less normal operation. The refinery crew got used to being in a permanent repair mode.

To really put a refinery out for a long time, you need to take out some of large specially built pressure vessels likes the crackers and/or the refinery's power plant. But you are not likely to do this with a car bomb. A large suicide plane packed with explosives might do the job, but easier said than done.

 I'm sure these people already know where all the weak points are in their target refinery, so where there's a will, there's usually is a way. I'm sure the concept of using a radiological 'dirty bomb' to make the refinery unlivable hasn't escaped them, either (all they needed to do was read Tom Clancey).

They'd have a much better chance in Houston, where there chem plants and refineries right next to houses and within spitting distance from the streets.

SA facilities have 3 security fences and patrol roads and a lot of empty space to cross before you get anywhere near them.

here's Abqaiq on Encarta,

here's the refinery from a satellite photo,

Lotta' pipelines going in and out of there.


But Al Qaeda is a gnat - their attacks are opportunistic.  Its the reaction to the attacks is where the damage is done.  All you need to do is to create a state of limited war in a prime location and...  well, higher oil prices.

The city in Romania is called Ploiesti. Very nice people there.
Not a refinery.  It was an insider at one of the business offices well removed from refinery property.
http://money.excite.com 60224/hle_bus-sp78791.html
On May 1 2004, attackers stormed the offices of Houston-based oil company in the western Saudi oil hub of Yanbu, killing six Westerners and a Saudi before Saudi security forces killed the attackers. Several weeks later, al-Qaida-linked gunmen stormed oil company compounds in Khobar, on the eastern coast, and took hostages. Twenty-two people, 19 of them foreigners, were killed by the time the siege ended.

In December 2004, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden for the first time called on militants to attack oil targets in the Gulf to stop the flow of oil to the West.

But no major attacks followed in the region. Some experts have believed that because al-Qaida's long-term goal is to run Saudi Arabia, it would do nothing to seriously jeopardize the oil industry on which the kingdom's wealth is based.

Super G,

Any chance you can do a post mortem on the server hits today?  I'd love to see the site traffic plotted against today's timeframe.  What was site traffic pre-SA attack?  How long did it take to ramp up?  How did the traffic stack up against historical trends?

Timed Out in Florida

bjj, hit the sitemeter chiclet over in the right sidebar, a ways down...all the info you're looking for is right there.  truth be told, our server outage was ill timed.

If it had been a snake, it would've bit me.

I wonder if we are seeing the beginning of a regional conflict between Shiites and Sunnis?
Twilight has been  raising a similiar question for expansion into SA, re the Iraq escalation. Also the news article I relayed may relate as well.
So they stopped one attempt?
There will be more, you can bet on that.
What you should not bet on is them stopping every single one.
It's very hard to stop someone who is bent on not surviving an attack.
I used to know a number of Saudi "students" in London many years ago. They had cars and lots of money and liked to party, and enjoy themselves in the big city. We used to go to boutiques and I'd help them choose the most fashionable and stylish clothes. At that time I was a clothes nut. Also I just happened to know lots of slightly eccentric young women were charmingly decadent, artistically inclined, partial to excess and luxury. We all got on famously. Anyway my Saudi friends eventually trusted me and began to open up, sharing their dreams and fears, as young people do after a few days with very little sleep.

It turned out that their wantoness and excessive behaviour was just a facade to cover up their true selves and what they really believed in and held dear. They were only pretending to be wastrels. I was slightly disappointed at the time, though I was intrigued. They didn't want to draw attention to themselves so they just acted like all the other princes who had more money than sense, so as not to arouse the suspecion of the Suadi authorities or British intelligence that was also keeping an eye on them, so they said.  

It reminded me of the Scarlet Pimpernell, Zorro, in a way and it sounded rather exciting, a bit dangerous and fascinating. There are so many stories about princes or heroes who have to pretend to be something they are not, while they wait for the right moment to strike back at injustice. And believe me these guys couldn't wait to strike a blow for freedom. Freedom that we'd all understand. They seemed to want to build a welfare state pretty much on Swedish lines and sweep away the Saudi Royal family and all it's corruption, waste and mismanagement of Saudi's resources.

One firebrand vowed to grab his uncle by the throat one day and kick him out of his palace, along with his wizard, his soothsayer and his magican. His uncle, he said, was wasting a fortune on these charlatans and their crazed ideas about how one could see into the future. Superstition amongst the Suadi Royal Family is legendary. It's almost like Zarist Russia before the Revolution, you remember Rasputin and the like. His uncle was obsessed with esoteric ancient texts and the study of the Kabala and numbers, like so many on TOD!

Anyway after talking to them I was pretty much on their side and I've been waiting a long time for the Saudi regime to go down. It's bound to happen sooner or later. The instability in Iraq cannot be contained inside Iraq. It will spread out into neighbouring countries. The Shia in Iraq have been more or less opressed for more then eight centuries by the Sunnis, the traditional ruling class of Iraq and many other countries in the region. The serious point here worht noting is that Iran is Shia. There is a large Shia minority in Northern Saudi, yes just across the border where the oil is! There also a large group of Shia heading West though Syria and way over to Lebanon. This is social/religious group has traditionally been under the thumb so to speak. Now they can see a bright potential future for themselves. A great and powerful Shia nation stretching from the Mediterranean to the Gulf. This is a dream for them, but isn't it a nightmare for us? Think about it, we've created a vacuum in the Middle East that might be filled by a newly resurgent Shia superstate. Potentially a really important and strong world power. It's a chance they'ed be stuped not to take. It's now or never for them. Like the head of Israeli intelligence said a few weeks ago, we may end up regreting that Saddam isn't around anymore!

Very interesting story.

The resulting vacuum in Iraq and the potential of a Shia superstate have been discussed very intensivly before the Iraq. Maybe not in the US but for sure in Europe and Canada.

Intresting post.

> They seemed to want to build a welfare state pretty much on Swedish lines and sweep away the Saudi Royal family and all it's corruption, waste and mismanagement of Saudi's resources.

It only worked as long as Sweden had a vibrant private sector that were large enough to fiance the state sector. It might have worked longer if our socialists had not created manny service sectors as part of the state and thus making them inefficient.

It also worked farly well for a long time since manny people did not ask for all the free benefits they were entitled too since they felt that they could get by withouth them. That changed with time and the change were hurried along by our socialists propaganda about allowances being rights and democracy being having politicians giving everybody things for free and fixing everybodys problem.

Norway has managed to turn oil income into general wealth for their population but they also had a good private enterprice tradition. I do not know Saudi Arabia but my impresssion is that they do not have much of an entrepreneur tradition at all.

Kick starting from scratch in very recent history, S.A. had limited technical skills and was forced to import foreign labour to develop, operate and maintain the vast oil infrastructure including a significant portion solely to maintain the foreign workers needed to do so.  During certain times they were importing so much material and labour for the workers to build the refineries that it was impossible to build the refineries, but that eventually leveled off.  Construction of the entire country, without much involvement of the local population, IMO was a mistake.  At first, it was not possible simply due to lack of a sufficient number of people.  Later, I think the locals were too acoustomed to seeing foreign labour do all the work and decided they liked it that way and could continue that way, as long as they could afford the higher costs.  Thus, lack of local involvement continues to leave a large void in the labour force, as not many Saudis are interested in accepting employment at levels below management, yet few actually have the experience to reach for that level.  To combat this, there has been a Saudization program for many years now where all companies are mandated to employe locals on their staff.  Of course that works like a submarine with screen doors, but is forced to continue.  Many Saudis are hired only to comply with the law and often wind up being pushed out of the company mainstream for cultural differences with the foreign company they work for, or are never given the chance to do anything serious, because they are already at a level superceeding their capability.  Consequently many just   make the best of it, occupy organization chart boxes to fulfill the legal requirement and collect their checks. Those that are serious about progressing find it quite difficult with the foreign companies and I've known several very serious and brilliant Saudis that were totally frustrated professionally and left the country to eventually do very well at technical jobs in the States, but that doesn't happen too frequently.  Saudi Aramco manages of course to attract the best available, but even they can't hire all of them and many fall by the wayside.        

Of course the some 8000 royals have been riding various cars on of nice gravy train.  There have been and still are many subsidies to them and to private companies and businesses and there are some good early retirement programs, for those that can find work with the state or a good private company.   Medical care is free to most if not all, but levels of service very.

Real economic power is concentrated in relatively few hands, but the royals know that the imense wealth must be shared with the descendents of all the original powerful tribes that ruled the various regions of the peninsula before they were united under Abdul Aziz.  This is done through means typical of all countries collecting the bulk of their revenues through state enterprises.  The  families of the original tribes retain much of their economic power through the agent & partnership relations that are required for foreign investment.  Each foreign entity wishing to establish business in S.A. must have a Saudi partner and the amount of business a company can expect to do corresponds to the degree of "influence" a partner has with the Sauds.  That part is a lot like the system in the States, except Cheney and GW do not officially appear on the Halliburton, Bechtel and Lockheed-Martin food chains.

So the various food and gravy trains that were set up with the imense oil wealth have not created an overly entrepreneural sprit, as many find its quite easy to just sit back, occupy a chair and let the good times roll.  The latest problems are developing from the increasing population and the rapid change in lifestyle and cultural pressures from expat workers of all nations.  My company included 47 different nationalities in an overall work force of 20,000.  Saudi women have an average of something like 7-8 children each, so it has meant superexponential growth during the last decades.  Something like 50% of the population is under 17 years old and unemployment for the younger generation must be 20-25%.  The GDP/capita has declined significantly with the population growth being roughly half (I think) of what it was 20 years ago.  It has also put enormous pressure on virtually the entire infrastructure requiring tremendous expenditures for transportation, housing, medical, electric capacity, domestic fuel refining and not the least of which has been for water supply and treatment facilities.  Water is extremely critical and agriculture can really only be conventionally practiced in 2 regions of the country.  Outside Riyadh, there is a milk farm where must be 25,000 cows under airconditioned barns.  Don't get much milk from a cow at 120ºF.

IMO, there is nobody more aware in the whole world of PO than the SA royal families, but you can bet they've got escape plans of some sort (or should I say golden parachutes).

GE it sounds like you have some experience in the SA area. Do you think the the practice of 'Wasta' will significantly hinder the plans to 'Saudi-ize' the SA oil industry? I've heard that it is a crippling social custom.
Since you asked, I lived there 10 years and another 2 in Turkey.  

Wasta ... Wealthy Middle Eastern nations acquired their riches not primarily by hard work, but by accident of nature. King Idriss reportedly said of the Libyan oil discoveries, "I wish it could have been water. Oil makes men idle, whereas water makes them work".  When money comes easily, the competitive edge is dulled, and dependency follows as a way of life, for families and for countries. The cultural norm of individual dependency is paralleled by international dependency relationships.

IMO, Saudization, which has been, since the mid 90s, forced more and more on companies with high pct of expat workers as a way to decrease unemployment is not working the way it was hoped.  I believe that the quality of work done by SAramco, among others does suffer.  When the majority of technical employees were expats, the quality of work was very high.  Specifications were maintained up to date with the latest technology and they made logical sense.  I´ve noticed changes now.  To give you the smallest example, I had to get a design for a UPS, uninterruptable power system, approved by S.A.  It was rejected because the design of the UPS was not in accordance with some obscure SA specification.  After digging up the specification, I found it was written in 1986, 10 years earlier.  It required that all components on a circuit board must be able to be replaced by standard hand soddering techniques.  By 1996 virtually all circuit boards were using microcomponents and entirely fabricated by machine.  They are impossible to repair.  The only choice is to toss them and install another completely new circuit board.  The procedure to get the new system approved involved submitting a Request for Deviation to SAES, Saudi Aramco Engineering Services, and waiting for the deviation to be approved and returned before we could install the system.  For want of an up to date specification, my work was delayed about 6 weeks.  This is the shortest delay I remember of any of the deviations I submitted.  Some actually delayed progress on various items for up to a  year.  The SA system, as it is today, is full of similar catch 22s.  Much of the problems occur because someone is unwilling to make a decision without the prior approval of their boss, even though theoretically, he (no she) is the only person that is required to approve the particular procedure.  

Another is that you can´t count on having a relationship based on support and trust between collegues or bosses and employees. I do a great deal of work based on my own initiative with the understanding that my boss trusts me to make the right decision before I actually get his approval when I do need it and when I get it, I know he will back me up.  In SA, it doesn´t happen.  Nobody sticks their neck out, because 1.) sometimes their boss may chose to make a cheap power play and veto the decision just to show who´s boss, and 2.) the employees don´t have a lot of confidence in their ability to make an independent decision, and if they make a mistake, they know their boss will kill them.

SA has started to rely on a lot of local mideast technical tallent instead of higher priced western technicals and IMO this also causes significant delays.  To an employee of mideast or south asian origin, how long his project lasts directly affects if his family does well or goes hungry, so I think there are actually many delays that are purposely caused in the belief that, if something can be sent back to the engineering company for 30 days, they will get another 30 days salary.  Might not really be true, but it certainly leaves that impression, since designs are returned for silly obvious things like a simple misspelling of some town´s name on a map, even though the town is well away from a pipeline and has no effect whatsoever on the route, or a date that´s off by one day, or really any multitude of stupid things.  I used to think, man that´s not much of a reason to delay this, but if they think they can afford it, no problem for me, but all the while thinking that, if SA ever lets Exxon in here, they´re going to put themselves out of business inside 2 years.

So, IMHO, I´d have to agree with the wise King Idriss.  On the other hand, it looks like with the latest oil revenues, they can continue with BAU (business as usual).    

Turkey is not like this, but they have other problems.  I´ll leave those for another day.

I just checked your profile to see if I could figure out why you asked that question.  Now I ¨get it¨.
OT:  When I try to read the full post, the text goes horribly wide instead of wrapping properly;
this is utterly unreadable.  For some reason this is not true on the main page or the post screen.

There are no images or other obvious causes of this problem.

It's even OK on the previous post (re missing barrels).  Maybe it's the terrorist.


It's the same in my browser. I've often noticed weird width anomalies in my own stories - I'll write it with one width and then a few days later it seems to be stuck at a different width. Not sure if it's some Scoop weirdness, but I can't track down an obvious cause in the page source. Super G?
I get the same thing using Mozilla on Linux and Safari on Mac OS X; but oddly not when using Mozilla on Mac OS X. No problem using Explorer on Mac OS X.

Also lately using Mozilla on Linux, some of the threads show up with a black background underlying the black text; the only part you can read is the orange links that are sprinkled here and there.

Also the problem with the super-long lines only occurs in this thread, not earlier threads.

The attack seems a bit amateurish, but that is no reason for complacency. One might recall there was also an unsuccessful attempt to take down the WTC in 1993. The worst thing to do is take the bad guys lightly, or brush them off as being "poorly funded". I hope the Saudi authorities manage to collect some good intel on who was behind this- it's rather cold to be biking to work in the winter around here.  
this attempt failed but there is nothing you can do to prove that the next one will fail as well along with the one after that.

you can't make somthing completely secure, it's a balence between risk vs reward. only in this case the risk part doesn't matter to the person making the atempt.

An analogy springs to mind with this incident, probably because I work at a major corporation with a large number of employees exceeded by far by the number of PCs...
It seems like almost every week or so that we'll get a message that patches are being installed IMMEDIATELY to protect the network against yet another weakness evidenced by hackers in the MS Windows OS (not to mention the various Norton Anti-Virus updates).
I have no idea what the cost is to Microsoft or their customers with all of this, but my question is this--  does anyone really believe that these network attacks are being carried out by well-funded, international terrorists?  Or is this the result of the actions of many thousands of disgruntled/curious/whatever individuals or small groups-- of which a certain percentage happen to be smart or get lucky?
Stratfor has a recap of the Abqaiq attempt with an excellent analysis of the "firewalls" in place there and they even trotted out the difficulties in WWII in reducing the production at Ploesti in any significant measure, but-- what if the general discontent is so widespread that the "silver bullet" event that takes out a significant percentage of daily production is not the issue?  What if it's "silver BBs"?  Seems like enough amateur attempts that take out a few hundred bpd here and a few more there might be as effective.    
I'm beginning to wonder whether the planners of this attack really expected it to do major damage that would cripple the refinery, or whether it was more of signal or opening shot for the uprising against the Saudi Royal family to begin, perhaps akin to the shot fired from the cruiser Aurora to signal the start of the Russian Revolution. Time will soon tell.
It's been a long time coming and a long time predicted. What is perhaps most surprising is its apparent amateurishness. Perhaps I seek to see more than there is but something smells of bluff and counterbluff to me.

Would be good if more detailed info emerges. Was it outstanding action in response to a serious attack, predictable killing of expendibles who were perhaps unwanted, a feint, just a little reminder? We will find out in the fullness of time.

I was a bit surprised that oil spiked up as much as it did given the lack of effect of this attempted attack (echoing jondough's first comment to this thread). A mite annoyed too, cos I missed my chance to bet on oil going up. I could almost bet on the price dropping in the very short term now, LOL. The oil market may be even more nervous than I thought it.

You would think the House of Saud would consider investing to not make their people so mad at them that they risk themselves. But I guess it's short term gain vs. long term insurance. I already worried about Iran and Nigeria, and now this. And there's no redundancy it seems. The entire world economy is hinging on this one facility? They couldn't have had another one? More short term thinking. But it was never going to last forever anyway. It's just scary that it might be this close.
This article makes mention that Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attack on their website.

The US needs to remain hands off and leave it to the Saudi authorities. The last thing that is needed is to encourage support for Al Qaeda by overreacting.

Not to want to give anyone a hint, but I seem to remember that a number of refineries that were hit by Katrina and Rita stopped production forquite a while .  A quick check reveals
One refinery with a total refining capacity of 120,000 b/d remains shut down in Louisiana as a result of Hurricane Katrina:
o ConocoPhillips, Belle Chasse, has restarted some units and partial operation will begin by the end January 2006; normal operation is expected by the end of March 2006
o Murphy Oil, Meraux, estimates end of March 2006 start up.
* All other refineries that suffered damage from the hurricanes and had their operations reduced or shut down are now almost fully operational. Lyondell Citgo was experiencing reduced runs in mid-December and has since become fully operational. ConocoPhillips' West Lake refinery still reports reduced runs.

The Saudi plant that was attacked is not a refinery as such - it does not produce refined products. I would describe it as a production and pretreatment plant, based on the information that I have seen. In any event, the output is crude oil and it can not be directly compared to the "refineries that were hit by Katrina and Rita".

According to the Washington Post, "The Abqaiq facility processes about 5-7 million barrels a day, removing hydrogen sulfide from crude oil to make it safe for shipping, before it is pumped to tankers for export."

Abqaig, Uthmanyia and Shedgum are major Gas and Oil separation plants (GOSP) initially constructed in late 70's.  They basically just retain the oil long enough to degass it, collect the gas from the oil and compress it, then the gas and the degassed oil are independently pipelined the last 75 km to the Ras Tanura refinery and shipping terminals.
Well, it should not be surprising that a Category 4 hurricane hitting an oil refinery built in a low-lying area will sustain more lasting damage than would be caused by even a large car bomb.

A hurricane affects the entire refinery site and almost everything in it, while the damage from a car bomb is highly localized. Remember, the force of an explosion attenuates with the cube of the distance from center of the explosion. So, if you have a large, robustly built target, such as a large pressure vessel in a refinery, it is necessary to place the explosive as close to the target as possible.

 Unless you are using a modern 'smart bomb', aerial bomber against large steel or reinforced concrete structures is not as effective as it might appear, because even a near miss tends not to do that much damage. (Air, being a compressible gas is a very poor medium for 'coupling' the explosive to the target.) That's why WW II bombing required the dropping of thousands of bombs over  a target so that a few lucky direct hits could be achieved.

No, if I owned a refinery on land that's close to being under water anyway,  I'd much rather it take a hit from a single car bomb than a Category 4 hurricane.

Sorry, meant to say a few hundred THOUSAND bpd...
There's more info this morning.  CNN reports that this was supposed to be just part of a much larger attack.  

The trucks were stopped a half mile from the actual facility, so whatever else they were planning came to nought.


Let's widen our lens and put this foiled terrorist attack in context with other events.    

Here's part of the Saudi list.  It's not difficult to see why this nation was struck.    

Saudi Arabia - Chronology of Recent Government Events


02/25/2006 Al-Qaeda threatens more attacks on Saudi oil facilities
02/24/2006  Saudi security forces prevent terrorist attack on Abqaiq oil refinery
02/23/2006  At least 103 Indians deported from Saudi Arabia to India
02/23/2006  Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)  foreign ministers meet with Secretary Rice (Abu Dhabi)
02/22/2006  Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Secretary Rice hold joint press conference

Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Secretary Rice press conference transcript:

02/22/2006  King Abdullah meets with Secretary Rice  
02/20/2006  Cabinet: King Abdullah's call for tolerance; Danish cartoons, Israel-Palestine
02/20/2006  Governor of Riyadh meets with Ambassador Fowler
02/19/2006  King Abdullah meets with former US ambassadors
02/18/2006  King Abdullah condemns extremism in remarks to National Guard guests
02/18/2006  OIC calls for emergency foreign ministers' meeting on Danish cartoons
02/18/2006  Prince Turki meets with Saudi students in Washington
02/17/2006  Saudi Ambassador meets with Saudi students in Boston
02/17/2006  Prince Turki discusses Saudi-US relations, global challenges at Harvard  
02/16/2006  Prince Turki discusses Kingdom's role in the global community at MIT
02/15/2005 Saudi Arabia hosts the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Jeddah
02/15/2006  King Abdullah opens 21st Jenadriyah Festival
02/15/2006  King Abdullah meets with representatives of Bahrain and UAE - Sheikh Muhammad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Bahrain's Commander of the National Guard, and Sheikh Saeed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, head of the UAE ports authority
02/15/2006  Justice Minister meets with US delegation
02/14/2006  Foreign Minister meets with US delegations
02/14/2006  Prince Saud Al-Faisal meets with Dutch Foreign Minister Bot
02/14/2006  Prince Turki addresses the CFR on visit to New York
02/14/2006  King Abdullah meets with Lebanese prime minister
02/14/2006 Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab-African Affairs arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to hold talks with Saudi Arabian King Abdallah bin Abd Al Aziz. Mohammad-Reza Baqeri is reportedly varying a message for the king from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
02/14/2006  Saudi Ambassador discusses range of issues with PBS' Charlie Rose
02/13/2006  Cabinet: Israel-Palestine, blasphemous cartoons
02/12/2006  Jeddah Economic Forum focuses on economic growth and cultural diversity
02/12/2006  Norwegian ambassador to Saudi Arabia apologizes for blasphemous cartoons
02/11/2006  King Abdullah meets with French envoys
02/10/2006  King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue launches Web site in English
02/09/2006  Saudi Ambassador meets with former President Bush (Houston meeting)
02/08/2006  Saudi Ambassador discusses Saudi-US partnership in Texas
(Houston World Affairs Council and at the Dallas World Affairs Council)
02/08/2006  Oil Minister addresses CERA conference
02/06/2006  West-Islamic World Dialogue Initiative (C-100) condemns offensive cartoons, calls for initiatives to overcome interfaith tension
02/05/2006  Prince Turki comments on Saudi-US energy relations, offensive Danish cartoons
02/02/2006  Saudi Arabia and Pakistan issue joint communiqué  
02/01/2006  King Abdullah ends Asian tour with state visit to Pakistan


01/31/2006  Cabinet: King Abdullah's Asia visit, Palestinian elections
01/31/2006  Foreign Minister cautions against prejudging Hamas
01/31/2006  Interior Minister calls for international conference on terrorism
01/30/2006  King Abdullah visits Malaysia  
01/27/2006  King Abdullah concludes India visit by signing the Delhi Declaration
01/27/2006  King Abdullah arrives in Hong Kong
01/26/2006  King Abdullah receives a warm welcome in India
01/24/2006  King Abdullah begins Asian tour with visit to China  
01/17/2006  Five suspects arrested for planning attacks on the Kingdom
01/17/2006  King Abdullah meets with Vice President Cheney
01/16/2006  Foreign Minister calls for international cooperation to fight terrorism (London address)
01/16/2006  Construction of new multi-level Jamarat Bridge begins
01/15/2006  Foreign Minister arrives in London for counterterrorism conference
01/14/2006  Resignation of Special Advisor to King Abdullah Ibrahim Alanqari
01/12/2006  Tragic stampede at Jamarat Bridge kills 345, injures 289
01/11/2006  King Abdullah calls for adherence to Islamic principles in Eid address
01/10/2006  King and Crown Prince call for Muslim unity in Eid address
01/10/2006  Religious leaders stress moderation in Eid Al-Adha sermons
01/09/2006  Grand Mufti denounces terrorism in sermon at Namira Mosque
01/08/2006  King Abdullah meets with Syrian president in Jeddah
01/03/2006  Cabinet: Hajj, terrorism, Arab League issues


12/28/2005  Two most-wanted terror suspects confirmed dead in shoot-out
12/27/2005  Five security men killed by terror suspects
12/03/2005  Saudi authorities arrest 17 suspected Al Qaeda terrorists
12/01/2005  Prince Turki calls for enhanced Saudi-US cooperation


09/2005 Report - Initiatives and Actions Taken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Combat Terrorism

Combating Terrorism Report

JUNE 2005

Saudi Arabia Most Wanted List
First published June 28, 2005
Updated January 3, 2006


02/05-08/2005 Saudi Arabia conducts the first global Counter-Terrorism International Conference, Riyadh

Counter-Terrorism International Conference, February 5-8, 2005 - including delegates from over 50 countries, including 15 from the Arab World and


Primary source:  Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington, D.C.


A few pounds would work for a refinery too.  There are one or two buildings where the control system equipment is located.  Damage them and the facility could be out for months.
True, it wouldn't take much explosives, provided you were able to actually get inside the control building. It takes a surprisingly small amount of explosives to bring down a large structure IF the explosives can be directly attached to key points in the structure in a planned manner. But if you can only detonate the explosive outside and away from the structure, then it takes a surprisingly large amount to bring it down. The difference is quite startling.

(This, by the way, is one of the reasons that a number of explosives experts question the claim that the Murrah Buidling in Oklahoma City was brought down by a van filled with a ANFO, a relatively poor explosive, and which was parked some distance away from the building. But that is a whole other subject, more suitable for some other forum.)

If you get inside all it would take would be a couple of buckets of water.  Almost all control systems nowadays are digital with rack-mounted circuit cards.  On the other hand the control room and the backup are probably pretty heavily guarded.
No one has mentioned the fact that this attack came right on the heels of the bombing of the revered Samarra Mosque in Iraq.  Here's a link to two eyewitness reports of that bombing which place US-supported Iraqi National Guards and American soldiers at the scene of the crime:

Now, unless you are conspiracy-phobic which a lot of people are these days, you have to consider the possibility that the US was behind this bombing.  The objective, to cause a civil war in Iraq under the theory that if they're fighting among themselves they won't be able to fight the occupiers.  

Obviously many Iraqis and Muslims in the region have figured this out.  Ahmadinejad in Iran immediately accused the US and Israel of being behind the Mosque bombing.

My point is this:  whether you buy into this theory or not the US presence is clearly inflaming the whole region and those people know where we are vulnerable.  Expect attacks on oil facilities to intensify.  Expect a serious oil crisis to develop in the near future and prepare yourself accordingly.

We may have a devious and corrupt administration but would it really want a civil war in Iraq or an oil price spike that could be directly attributed to them?  The political price for both would too great to bear.  

Plus most neocon "planning" has yielded one mess after another.  WHy would this be any different?  

I don't see this as very likely at all.  It was only a few days before this that the US was pushing the parties towards a coliation governemt.  The US doesn't really want to get kicked out of Iraq by a civil war.

In addition, there is no need to provoke Iran into a fight - since it appears that Iran is already ready and willing to take on the US, for whatever reason.  

A couple of (maybe) random thoughts:

  1. a week is a long time in politics. Just because the plan a short while ago was aiming for more coalition and cooperation doesn't mean that it can't change.

  2. Getting kicked out sounds like a good exit strategy. Any planned (and announced) withdrawl will either focus dissident attacks on the new Iraqi government (to see if it wasn't just an imposed puppet), or on the coalition forces (to see whether they can be forced out early)

  3. Just because the neocons want to remain in power, doesn't mean GWB is with them. In Britain in 1992, where it almost seemed that John Smith deliberately lost the election because the Tories had already trashed the economy, and thus the Tories would have to pay the price by trying to recover the mess they had made. Hence, Labour's lanslide in 1997. George Bush snr ceded power to Clinton to allow George jnr to come in. So why shouldn't George jnr try and cede power to the Democrats (truly ironic if it ended up being Clinton!) to be able to set up another family member in 2012.

  4. Just like in 1973, oil has become a political weapon. The market is now spooked enough that even a hint of disruption sends them into a flat spin.
Here's a forensics report on the Mosque explosion that supports the "agents provacateurs" theory:

Some of you seem to think the US wants stability in Iraq.  I disagree.

The US has no chance whatsoever of controlling Iraq, much less the Middle East, unless it is able to provoke hostilities every which way -- not just Sunni-Shia. It also needs the phoney war of civilizations -- Christianity (or just the West, i.e. so-called civilzation) and Islam.

This is not new stuff. Look at the maps of world drawn by the British imperialists - those maps continue to cause wars and dissension 100 years later!

Trouble is we subjects of the (US) empire are totally clueless as to the games the big guys are playing. We somehow imagine that we are not IN history, but are somehow special, somehow exempt.

Even Ted Koppel's admission "it is about the oil" is part of game. As the oil dries up, it may will become possible to directly mobilize the populace: we need the oil -- let's go get it.

 The "geopolitical premium" applied by the market to the price of oil is sniveled at in the media as if it were the market's reaction to the latest teen idol. In the past, this has been prudent with the spare capacity from many sources enjoyed then. But the new reality is that there will pretty much always be such a premium for oil pricing. If every single significant oil exporter were playing nice with every other kid on the block all over the earth, and there was $0.00 premium, how long do you think it would last ?

All this Wall Street talk about the intrinsic price of oil if so and so and such and such risk factor didn't exist is plain silly.

When you go to buy oil, it costs what it costs.