Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Terrorists May Strike Oil

Realizing that oil is the lifeblood of the West oil facilitiesconstitute atempting target that is under-secured
Sam Elrom (8/20/2007)


As terrorists changed their global war paradigm, infrastructure targetsarenow in their cross hair and a shift from hardened targets to targetsthatare more vulnerable is more visible.

Terrorists have kept the oil andenergyindustry up high on their target acquisition list and from theirstandpointfor very good operational reasons:

* Firstly, the common belief that very sensitive sites, such asrefineries, processing facilities, offshore rigs, pipelines and tankersarewell protected is in many cases false.

* Secondly, it is presumed that there is a correlation between thevery high turnover and profits in the business and the industry’sability toprotect itself. After all, it makes sense that the protection of the“goosethat lays the golden eggs” would be protected at the maximum levelavailable; again, it is far from reality.

* Thirdly, terrorists were unhappy with the fact, that in spite ofhundreds of worldwide attacks during the last decade against the oilindustry, their actions did not attract the expected attention of theinternational media. They tend to blame the unsatisfactory coverage on the fact that the attacks were conducted mainly in remote regions. Many considered the attacks to be an integral part of the business and industry’s natural risks.

* Least but not last, as part of the projected West demise, terroristsrealized that a shortage of oil supply is extremely painful for theWest tocope with because it affects the entire nerve system of the Western economy and shatters the very basics of our life style and culture. It alsocreateshuge loses for American and foreign investors and cracks-open the very foundations of the new, westernized global political and economicstructure.

More so, it has an immediate negative impact on young, yet unstabledemocracies and their economies mainly in several ex-Soviet countrieswhereoil is the only natural resource.

* In addition, it magnifies and intensifies the fears of a terrorattack and creates an atmosphere of new investments abstinence, thusaddingadditional difficulties to the anyway fragile economies. It also galvanizes a domestic sense of instability and uncertainty seen by Jihadists as the beginning of the end of the Western civilization. Not to lose time, Al-Qaeda has defined precisely in 2003 their goals in an instruction manual found in Afghanistan which reads: the umbilical cord (the oil supply-SE) and lifeline of the crusader (infidels - SE)community, (is) the object ofthenext major assault on the West, an assault that could wreak havoc with America’s economy and way of life”.

Changes in terror strategy

Observations and analysis of more than twenty years of a vast array ofterror attacks and related events allow us to draw a comparison chart showing a strategic change in patterns, which are actually adaptations and responses to the changes we’ve made in our strategic approach of”“search and destroy” initiative policy. Hereafter are the changed guidelines adoptedby Al-Qae da and its surrogates:

* Aiming at soft targets is the most effective way to achieving massfear, chaos and distress and scoreless casualties

* Target Infrastructure because the impact is of immense magnitude andlong-lasting

* Take advantage of transportation natural vulnerabilities andprotection difficulties

* Focus on supply lines because of the abundance of targets relativelyeasy to reach and hit

* Focus on high risk-high value poorly protected sites because of thepropaganda added value and the immediate impact on the industry andcommerce”

*Exploit the psychological factor and wage a propaganda warfare; keepthe momentum going by daily terror events in various location in theworld,using the loose connections of transnational networking and connection with local terror factions as initiators.

The oil industry is under an imminent threat

There is an abundance of easy targets in the US yet terrorists wereunableto generate an attack on a major facility since 9/11, but the belief-spread by interested parties - that the reason lies in the superior protection of the critical infrastructure is a purely baseless.
We know retroactively that the real reason was a false perception that high risks-high value targets inthe US are much better protected than in Kazakhstan, Nigeria or Yemen where attacks on similar industrial sites and oil facilities were successful and continue today.

This interim five years long of zero attacks in the US led politicians and business leaders to the wrong conclusion that at least for now the infrastructure is not a priority on terrorists’ hit list, therefore there is no need to heavily invest in upgrading and reinforcing existing prevention and protection systems.

It took the terrorists, and more specifically Al-Qeida, several years to realize that the same terror attacks they carried out in remote locations in Africa or Kazakhstan are executable in the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Bottom line: oil & energy industries are extremely vulnerable and not prepared yet to meet the challenges that the transnational revived organizations like Al-Qaeda present.

Furthermore, significant benign events such as the huge power out age generated in Canada a few years ago, coupled by several in-depth chemical facilities investigations by TV networks which exposed the naked truth to the public (and the terrorists), have shown how easy it is to penetrate and retreat from a highly protected facility without being detected.”Although the investigative journalists intended well, public exposure showing how extremely unprotected those critical sites are, were an encouragingwakeupcall to the terrorists to rethink and refocus again on those industries.

The napping sentinel

Terror groups are aware of the increased security measures that were taken in western countries to protect national, historical and symbolic sites. Butthey are aware as well of the security gaps, the lack of national coverage of security needs for the protection of critical infrastructure and there luctance to invest in security unless the government pays a big chunk of it. A terror organization cannot afford to fail because they can choose the staging location, the target and the timing.

Terrorists are always insearchof targets that will focus the whole media attention, inflict as many as possible casualties, have an immediate impact of public safety, create a sense of insecurity, and generate chaos, confusion and fear.

Obviously, loosing the safe haven of Afghanistan coupled by the US policy of pursuing the enemy wherever, has forced the terrorists to change strategies looking for easier, more effective attack options.

As a result, a strategy shift is taking place in recent years, moving from targeting national symbols towards softer targets and under protected critical infrastructure sites. The oil industry, with its industrial ramifications and vast array of related sub-industries are on the top list of this new pragmatic approach because the vulnerabilities are visible and many sites still don’t have adequate protection.

Partially, this lack of protection is because it is very difficult to develop and manage a system that provides an overall superior protection all the time while maintaining the same high level of alertness and readiness for long periods. Nonetheless, poorly coordinated attempts are so evident only to be year after year be criticized by the media, the experts and the internal investigative units. As it stands today,attacking an infrastructure site is easier than hijacking a plane, and that is a very disturbing fact because we know how many gaps exist in aviations ecurity.

Security is in many aspects an invisible high-value asset. Thus, there is a reluctance to allocate the needed budgets for such an amorphous volatile goal defined as physical security which does not create any tangible profits. More so, convincing corporate, stock holders and investors that better security actually means higher profits in the long run is equally difficult. It becomes an even more daunting task when in some cases the profit lost due to a terror attack is lower than the investments needed to put in place a system that may prevent such attacks.

This “short memory syndrome” from which many businesses suffer from is more prevalent the more we distance ourselves from 9/11 and without any significant sign of a terror attack in mainland USA. But if such a major attack occurs in the heartland of any critical infrastructure conglomerate such as an oil port, the economic and homeland security implications are economically disastrous, not to mention the lose of life, the wounded and maimed and the impact on their families and on national morale.

With figures showing that the U.S. imports over 52% of its oil amounting to more then 12 million barrels per day, and with a projected dependency expected to grow to nearly 70% in the next 20 years, the acute problem America is facing today is obvious.

A terror attack using a “dirty bomb pales in comparison to the devastation created by a ship loaded with acargoof common grade LPG, or industrial explosives and chemicals beingdetonatedin one of US main highly congested oil ports. This is more than a viable scenario and from the terrorists’ point of view, the results will likely be catastrophic and more effective than other non-nuclear or bio WMD.

It is thesimplest and shortest way to reach an already available source of materialwhich otherwise would have been impossible to buy or prepare in such enormous quantities without creating suspicions. These are common highly commercialized materials available everywhere and a trained and motivated terrorist needs only to board the ship, plant a detonator and activate it wirelessly at the right moment

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