April 25, 2009
Al Qaeda fil Maghreb & Generally: Oil facilties as a strategy.
A brief note on potential for Al Qaeda to target oil facilities: Al Qaeda & Oil Facilities in the Midst of the Global Economic Crisis
One item that caught the eye:
. Moreover, observers have noticed the increasing targeting of facilities and workers in the oil and gas sector in Algeria by the so-called “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb”.
I am not sure this is in fact all that much the case.
Otherwise, the conclusion:
As mentioned above, Bin Laden’ said in 2004 that oil prices should reach $150 per barrel. Legitimizing the targeting oil pipelines, refineries or workers rather than the wells themselves suggests that raising oil prices is a strategy Salafi-jihadists are adopting. In the shadow of bin Laden’s threat of "opening new fronts for the attrition of the economy of the West", it seems that such understanding is not limited to the Middle East only. The African continent is becoming an increasingly important for the diversification of oil production and transportation, as well as is the Caspian Sea region which is critical for diversification of oil resources to the West. However the risk of targeting oil interests, is not confined to certain geographical locations, as it’s associated with a strategy of opening “new fronts”.
According to this understanding, it seems that the targeting of oil facilities by al-Qaeda or affiliated Salafi-jihadists is designed to affect the flow of oil leading to higher fuel prices in the midst of a global economic cris
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Moreover, observers have noticed the increasing targeting of facilities and workers in the oil and gas sector in Algeria
If that's really their strategy, they're doing a lousy job. I can't recall more than one or two attacks directed at the oil/gas industry (like this bus of workers) in the past few years. And for all I know, those were probably directed against foreigners qua infidel dogs, rather than specifically targeting the hydrocarbon sector. I think it's just too hard to seriously disrupt oil/gas sales from Algeria, since the state (true to bunker state form) is so extremely protective of them. Even during the 90s, there were just a handful of attacks on these installations, despite ample motivation. On the other hand, the Saharan AQIM wing seems better implanted now than anything that existed in the South back then, so maybe they could give it a shot.
Theoretically it's an interesting strategy (or was when announced, as oil prices were peaking), where Jihadis could score some symbolic victories. But I think it's more applicable to places like Iraq and Yemen, and perhaps for shock value in the Gulf states, than Algeria.
Posted by: alle at April 25, 2009 05:38 PM
Yeah, I found that to be a queer observation, however that does not mean that there are not plots. But Sonatrach is far, far too important to the generals...
Posted by: The Lounsbury at April 25, 2009 06:43 PM
This is stating the obvious and trivial, isn't it? Of course bin Laden and Co would like to hit big oil export terminals; Mansfield Town would like to win the FA Cup. Obviously it's useful information to know this, but it's not new information or particularly secret or original, and it doesn't mean they are any closer to their goal. And, given that winning the FA Cup is difficult, it doesn't tell us much about what other goals they might pursue in the meantime.
Posted by: Alex at April 27, 2009 05:02 PM
But isn't that the thing? Bin Ladin is hiding in a cave or someone's basement, so all he can do is to send out video tapes with vague targeting instructions that his legions of devotees will hopefully put to good use. What other strategy can he have for the meantime? Telling everyone to hit their nearest oil installation at once, when prices were peaking, was about his best idea so far. Embarrassingly for him, and for Western proponents of this whole bin Ladin scare, nothing much happened when he did.
Personally, I think they should have kept up attacking airlines instead of trying to beat the US army or raze the global economy. The shoe bomber thing was a brilliant idea: if they could just pull off five or six of those in a year, which should be comparatively easy, it could have a real chilling effect on travel and tourism.
Posted by: alle at April 28, 2009 09:53 PM