Thursday, May 12, 2005

Could the Saudis Blow Up Their Own Oil Infrastructure?

(Picture credit BBC News)
Excel-web sharing of spreadsheetsFrontpage Magazine features a fascinating article by Daniel Pipes. The topic: the possibility that the Saudis have booby-trapped their oil infrastructure to prevent anyone else from taking control.

In what sounds like the far-fetched plot of a Bond film, Pipes describes Gerald Posner's new book about US-Saudi relations. Posner, the investigative reporter and author of ten books, reportedly based this assessment on a variety of "intelligence intercepts". Supposedly spurred on by veiled threats from the US State Department during the oil crush of the 1970's, the Saudis came up with their own plan to repel any would-be takeover.

This became a top-priority project for the kingdom. Posner provides considerable detail about the mechanics of the sabotage system, how it relied on unmarked Semtex from Czechoslovakia for explosives and on radiation dispersal devices (RDDs) to contaminate the sites and make the oil unusable for a generation. The latter possibilities included one or more radioactive elements such as rubidium, cesium 137, and strontium 90.

Collecting the latter materials, Posner explains, was not difficult for they are not useable in a nuclear weapon and no one had the creativity to anticipate Saudi intentions:

It is almost impossible to imagine that anyone could have thought a country might obtain such material … and then divert small amounts internally into explosive devices that could render large swaths of their own country uninhabitable for years.

Saudi engineers apparently then placed explosives and RDDs throughout their oil and gas infrastructure, secretly, redundantly, and exhaustively.

The oil fields themselves, the lifeline for future production, are wired … to eliminate not only significant wells, but also trained personnel, the computerized systems that seemingly rival NASA’s at times, the pipelines that carry the oil from the fields …, the state-of-the-art water facilities (water is injected into the fields to push out oil), power operations, and even power transmission in the region.

Nor is that all; the Saudis also sabotaged their pipelines, pumping stations, generators, refineries, storage containers, and export facilities, including the ports and off-shore oil-loading facilities...

Pipes: Will the Saudis Blow Up Their Own Oil Infrastructure?

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