Jewish World Review June 23, 2004 / 4 Tamuz, 5764
The coming War for Oil
If I were you, I'd be trading in that SUV for a compact, and getting
familiar with bus schedules. The Iraq war wasn't a war for oil, but the
next phase of the war on terror very well may be.
The Iranian seizure of three British patrol boats in disputed waters of the
Shatt al Arab, and the beheading of Lockheed-Martin contractor Paul Martin
in Saudi Arabia suggest the bad guys have an oil price strategy.
As I write this, the Iranians are threatening to put the 8 British sailors
they captured on trial. This is a replay, in miniature, of the 1979 hostage
crisis in which followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini seized the U.S. embassy
The beheading of Paul Johnson by the local al Qaida affiliate is likely to
hasten the departure of Westerners from Saudi Arabia, which would have a
deleterious effect on oil production there. (Saudi managers excel at
drinking coffee, not engineering.)
Michael Ledeen thinks the Iranian attack on the British sailors was also
"The Brits were laying down a network of sensors to detect the movement of
ships toward major Iraqi oil terminals," he said. "The Iranians considered
that a bit of a threat. So they attacked."
The mullahs felt threatened because they were planning to attack the Iraqi
oil terminals themselves, or to assist al Qaida operatives in doing so,
"They want to defeat President Bush in November, and they figure if they can
get the price of oil up to around $60 a barrel, he'll lose to Kerry," Ledeen
said. "Not to mention a considerable side benefit: At $60 a barrel, they
can buy whatever they may be lacking to get their atomic bombs up and
A slowdown in Saudi production also would exert considerable upward pressure
on oil prices, since Saudi Arabia has a quarter of the world's known
reserves, and is the only producer in the world capable of substantially
The relationship between the Saudi royal family and al Qaida remains murky.
The Saudi regime has declared its enmity to the terrorists, but there is a
difference between declaring enmity, and practicing it. Al Qaida has
attacked Westerners in the kingdom with apparent impunity. But it has yet
to attack either the oil production facilities or members of the royal
The current al Qaida policy of attacks on non-Muslims in the kingdom helps
both al Qaida and the royal family. It keeps the price of oil artificially
high, without destroying valuable assets. The Saudi royals are as eager to
get rid of Bush and his talk of democracy in the Arab world as are Osama bin
Laden and the Iranian mullahs. They just have to be more subtle about it.
If al Qaida should turn on the Saudi government, "it is far from certain
that the corrupt geriatrics who run the country will be able to head off the
threat to the Saudi industry's ability to protect a steady supply of oil,"
said Irwin Steltzer, director of economic policy studies at the Hudson
Saudi production facilities are well protected, but by troops of uncertain
loyalty and dubious competence, and we have seen in Iraq how difficult it is
to protect pipelines from well-trained saboteurs.
A prolonged shutdown of Saudi production would send a shock through the
world's economies comparable to that of the Arab oil embargo of 1973, which
nearly quadrupled oil prices.
There are no alternative sources of energy that could fill the void,
"I was asked many years ago at a gathering of government and industry
experts to lay out an energy policy for America, to cope with a supply
interruption," Steltzer said. "Two words: aircraft carriers."
The key to preventing this nightmare is a firm response to Iran's
provocation, thinks the web logger Wretchard of the Belmont Club.
"Although the Iranians may try to dominate the agenda with the usual
television parade of hostages and prisoners... the only real question should
be how to humiliate the mullahs," Wretchard said. "They should be made to
remember this day so that if their miserable theocracy lasts another ten
years they can never bring themselves to look at a calendar opened to the
month of June without trembling."
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
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