Not very effective suicide bombers tried to ram three explosive-packed cars through a gate at the huge Saudi oil-processing facility at Abqaiq today. Security forces’ fire stopped them right there, at the gates of the complex, one mile away from anything lucrative target. Oil prices went up a little bit (they did not “soar,” as some soaringly hysterical media claimed: $1.26 was added to the price of a barrel, a mere ripple in an ocean of thick oil).
Various Saudi princes, from King Abdullah to Interior Minister Nayyef, had averred that al-Qaeda had been eradicated from the kingdom; since the kingdom’s principal output, besides oil and natural gas, is jihadis, this was hard to believe. Their statements have now been given the lie: to send three cars packed with explosive into the highly sensitive oil facilities in the middle of the highly protected Saudi petroland shows that a serious terrorist infrastructure is still in place. All three cars were reportedly marked with Saudi Aramco logos, which suggests, as in every terrorist hit that has occurred in Saudi Arabia in the last few years, some inside complicity.
Terror hits are part of every negotiating process in the Middle East: A terror group that wants a pay raise, or has other demands in mind, will kill people or sabotage or destroy objects in order to make a point–as a mode of self-expression, it’s faster than elections and it emphatically conveys the message. Since there is a continuum rather than a chasm between the Royal Family and the jihadis, the latter are making a point indeed: we exist; we are a threat; we could do worse, gimme, gimme, gimme. One wonders how much the timing is influenced by the atrocities committed across the border in Iraq by the jihadi cousins of the Saudi al Qaedists.
Also, at a time when the Saudi leaders are manifesting a great deal of unhappiness and angst with the nuclear strides made by neighboring Iran, one may wonder whom the hit came from and why: to remind the kingdom of the vulnerability of its oil resources may be of benefit to several different players–the eastern oil province’s population is 80 percent Shiite, most of them, it is true, of Sistani’s persuasion. Still: Middle Eastern politics does not have the biblical simplicity of, say, Italian politics, or the transparency of Chinese politics.