Monday, May 31, 2004

The dumb al Quaeda and a "refinery too far"? 

Al Quaeda associates have just slaughtered 22 people, including 19 foreigners, in Saudi Arabia (being particularly careful this time to only kill infidels, and not Muslims). The overall target, of course, was the Saudi's number one money spinner - the oil industry. Now the papers report that

"Intelligence agencies fear that the Islamic terrorists behind the deadly kidnappings in Saudi Arabia over the weekend are planning a 'spectacular attack' in the country... Key oil installations or the causeway linking Saudi Arabia to Bahrain were among the possible targets of a future attack, according to the British newspaper's intelligence sources."
Now the Saudi authorities are vowing to crush the terrorists. An interesting twist, this. You see, nothing motivates like self-interest. Bombs going off in foreign countries are really somebody else's business, a few expats working in Saudi Arabia being shot here and there creates a nuisance, but you never ever mess with the economy. The Saudis won't particularly mind if the oil prices go up as a result of all this mayhem, but they might draw the line in the sand (so to speak) if the thousands of foreign experts start leaving the country, and if major oil infrastructure gets damaged (unless you're into conspiracy theories and believe in an alliance of convenience between al Quaeda and some sections of the Saudi establishment, whereby the former gets all the infidels out of Saudi Arabia, and the princes get more buck for their oil at the price of some minimal structural damage, enough to fool the observers).

Conspiracy theories aside, has al Quaeda committed a strategic blunder, pushing the Saudi authorities too far? We can only hope. I wrote some time ago about a "smart al Quaeda" and a "dumb al Quaeda". Smart al Quaeda bombs Spain a few days before the election, dumb al Quaeda beheads Nick Berg on video. This might well be another dumb al Quaeda strike.

Meanwhile, Daniel Pipes argues that in the civil war between the Saudi monarchy and Islamofascists we should support the lesser evil.

UPDATE: Niner Charlie doesn't think that al Quaeda is all that dumb - after all why even bother to stage a frontal attack on the US and other Western democracies, when you can potentially affect the election result by playing around with the other end of the pipeline?

UPDATE II: Some Middle Eastern experts agree.


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