Counter-Terrorism: Protecting The Five Most Attractive Targets

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May 15, 2006: Al Qaeda has made it clear that it plans to defeat its enemies by destroying their economies. In theory, they can do a lot of damage. That's because there are five targets that, if destroyed or seriously damaged, would do significant economic damage to some of the world's most powerful economies. Some of them you may have never heard about, but Islamic terrorists have.

@ Abqaiq Oil Processing Complex: This Saudi Arabian facility cleans up 6.8 million barrels of Saudi oil a day, and pumps it out to ship loading facilities. Abqaiq is one of the best guarded sites in the world. An unsuccessful al Qaeda assault last February resulted in security being improved still further. If Abqaiq were put out of action, the al Saud family, and the Saudi economy, would be in great danger.

@ The Strait of Malacca is the narrow seaway providing the quickest passage between the Pacific and Indian oceans. Some 20 percent of all world trade moves through these straits, aboard some 130 ships a day. Lots of pirate activity, and sea traffic is vulnerable to naval mines and sinking large ships in shallower channels. This would disrupt some traffic. Near total shutdown of the straits would cause economic disruption worldwide, and especially in East Asia. Shipping costs would go up and there would be lots of shipping delays. Ultimate economic costs would run into the hundreds of billion dollars.

@ The Druzhba Pipeline is, at 4,000 kilometers, the longest in the world. It travels through southern Russia, close to the volatile Caucasus. The pipeline supplies Ukraine and points west, including Germany. Moving 1.2 million barrels a day, taking it out of service would cripple the economies it supplies.

@ The Strait of Hormuz are 34 kilometers wide, and each day 17 million barrels of oil pass through aboard tankers. The Straits are vulnerable to Iranian anti-ship missiles (bought from China) and naval mines. Terrorists could also plant naval mines, which are available on the black market.

@ The Suez Canal is a smaller version of the Strait of Malacca, but is more vulnerable. At its narrowest point, it's only a thousand feet wide. Sink one or more ships, and 1.3 million barrels of oil has to find a different route each day, as well as millions of tons of other cargo. Worse, the canal is a major portion of the Egyptian economy. Thus a canal shut down could cause widespread political unrest in Egypt.

 


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