(DAILY STAR) Saudi Arabia faces ‘key threats’ to its energy infrastrucutre from Al-Qaeda, insurgents, and civil unrest within the Shiite population despite security improvements, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The report, entitled “Saudi Petroleum Security: Challenges & Responses” examines the current and projected strategic importance of Saudi and Gulf exports, the nature and vulnerability of Saudi energy facilities, and the ways the Kingdom is dealing with the threat of terrorism and insurgency to protect its petroleum infrastructure.
“Saudi Arabia alone holds one-quarter of the world’s proven oil reserves, with 259.4 billion barrels,” the report states. “According to the Energy Information Agency (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy, it has another 2.5 billion barrels in the Saudi-Kuwaiti Neutral Zone, and may contain up to 1 trillion barrels of ultimately recoverable oil … Studies by the CIA, EIA and IRA all have found that Saudi Arabia is a key petroleum exporter and central to a steadily more interdependent global economy.”
Saudi Arabia has legitimate reasons to be concerned about the security of its energy infrastructure, according to the report. It faces threats from Al-Qaeda, and many Saudi Aramco employees are suspected of harboring extremist sympathies. However, the report argues that threats from Al-Qaeda or its sympathizers are not the only security threat to the Saudi oil supply.
“There is also the concern over the large Shiite Muslim population in the Eastern Province (Al-Ahsa, where much of the petroleum infrastructure is located),” the report states. “Shiites – which make up just under 50 percent of the labor force of Saudi Aramco and around 7.5 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population – have suffered from economic, political, and religious discrimination. The Saudi government has recognized that this represents a potential security threat and has taken steps to address Shiite grievances.” While aspects of Saudi Arabia’s energy infrastructure remain vulnerable, the report argues that the Kingdom is generally well prepared to confront most serious security threats. In 2004 the Saudi security budget is expected to be 50 percent higher than the previous year, making it by far the highest in the Middle East. Saudi Security forces have also ensured that any damage caused to its pipeline system (its “key potential vulnerability”) can be quickly contained and repaired, and Saudi security agents performed well in the aftermath of the attack on Yanbu.
“It is impossible to completely eliminate the threat of terrorism against the Kingdom’s energy infrastructure, and Saudi Arabia faces the threat of conventional military attack, asymmetric warfare, and proliferation as well,” the report states. “Given the recent security efforts by the Saudi government (much of which remains classified), the overlapping and redundant layers of defense around key installations, and the extensive disaster planning and drills that have taken place, the probability of any major attacks being carried out successfully has been significantly lessened.”
Here is the link to the document from CSIS: