The Saudi Option

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Gerald Posner writes in his new book, Secrets of the Kingdom: The Inside Story of the Saudi-U.S. Connection, that the Saudis may have rigged their entire oil and gas infrastructure to self-destruct at the push of a button, according to this Daniel Pipes column. Why? To deter invasion, either from a hostile neighbor, in the manner of Saddam's treatment of Kuwait, or even from an apparent ally, the U.S. having failed in the past to rule out the possibility of military action against its friends in the KSA.

Furthermore, given that the U.S. was able to extinguish Saddam's huge Kuwaiti oil fires in a brief time, the Saudis have supposedly made sure that their oil will stay unavailable for decades by making the destruction absolute, including (quoting Pipes here) "pipelines, pumping stations, generators, refineries, storage containers, and export facilities, including the ports and off-shore oil-loading facilities." Indeed, if what Posner writes is true, even many habitable parts of the KSA will become uninhabitable thanks to the use of radioactive materials in this self-sabotage.

But is it true? Posner reportedly is working from intelligence intercepts; he leaves open the alternative that all this information could be a Saudi bluff. Pipes writes that other nations will nevertheless have to act as if it is true, and offers a scenario in which the KSA falls into the hands of Taliban-like Islamists who push the button (if there is one) specifically to throw the West into economic free fall (presumably leaving the holy places of the Hijaz uncontaminated).

Of course, there's also the beach-novel alternative: Somebody will try to fake out the current Saudi leadership, plotting a way to make the KSA push its Doomsday button without the risk of retaliation to themselves, so as to rearrange the entire world order at one stroke. All sorts of figures might be interested in such a scenario: A Chinese Sun Tzu, perhaps, or a Russian Machiavelli; an out-of-control Zarqawi (or one under someone's control), or a well-placed Revelations obsessive who seeks to hasten the Kingdom of Heaven. (Feel free to fill the holes in this plot—or to come up with a better one—in Comments, and we can all split the book and movie money.)

Posner's book will be officially released tomorrow.

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  1. If Osama Bin Laden is really Paul Atreides a.k.a. the Muad?Dib of Frank Herbert’s “Dune,” then it would seem only logically that the Saudis have understood the book’s central premise:

    The Power to Destroy, is the Power to Control.

  2. Oooh, ooh I have one:

    The new permanent Iraqi government, in hopes of cornering the market of oil producing countries with positive relations with the US sends a special forces team of Shias, disguised as Iranian commandos to set off the doomsday device. This will cause oil prices to skyrocket, bankrupt the kingdom and turn Iraq into the #1 destination for Muslims as the axis of Islamic legitimacy tilts towards the Iraq. Iraq uses the newfound money from people on hajj and oil to rebuild Baghdad in the image of its glory days under Saladin.

  3. Doomsday devices that could destroy an entire kingdom with a single switch? Just sounds a little too sci-fi for me.

    Even the US nuclear arsenal, doomsday device though it may be, is supposedly a robust system that’s very hard for a single lunatic to set in motion.

    Or so I hope.

  4. Great, now the whole world knows what my final threat will be in the season finale of 24.

  5. How about the eco-terrorist possibility–assuming “the device” is rigged in such a way it would cause only localized enviromental damage?

    Or maybe someone who would have something else to gain from a nuclear powered-hydrogen economy?

    …meh, just as far fetched as anything else.

  6. I am envisioning a Jerry Bruckheimer production, directed by Michael Bay.

    At some point during the film, Nicolas Cage will run at the camera in slow motion and dive for cover just as all of Saudi Arabia explodes behind him.

  7. Quiet mtc. My shares of Transatlantic zepplin will be worth millions with the increase in hydrogen production.

  8. Suicide bombers obviously have no emotional attachment to “fossil” anything, much less fuel.
    For the longer term, we should hope all oil is radioactivized–that is, denatured, dirty-bombed, as it were–sooner rather than later.

    Think of all this as a tsunami against the road-gasoline-automobile Trilateral Commissioners.

    As an unintended consequence, this Kurstian Nation, Amurika, can begin to stop sucking up to them Ahabs.

  9. If the Saudis actually had created this kind of Strangelovesque system, it would’ve required the work of scores of trained security, explosives, and energy industry personnel. And a number of them invariably would’ve been Westerners. I find it a little hard to believe that no one involved in the operation would have his knowledge reach a media source over the years.

    A more plausible scenario is that the Saudis have some contingency plans to use their conventional military capabilities (bombers, missiles, commando units) to wreck their oil/gas infrastrucure in the event of an American attack. But that’s a far cry from what Posner is suggesting.

    Btw, the most obvious potential villain in the beach-novel scenario would be Iran. Russia would probably be second. But the Chinese? That wouldn’t be the work of a Sun Tzu, but a Jim Jones.

  10. Pipes is smoking something. Anyone who knows anything about Saudi Arabia knows the Saudis hired American and British expats to run Aramco.

  11. What’s the point of having a doomsday device if you don’t tell anyone about it?

  12. Why didn’t we do that when we owned alot of those oil fields?

  13. What’s the point of having a doomsday device if you don’t tell anyone about it?

    I could not agree more. Because the whole point of building it is to hold the world ransom…

    …for ONE MILLION DOLLARS!!! mua ahha hahhahah!!!

  14. What’s the point of having a doomsday device if you don’t tell anyone about it?

    “It was to be announced at the Party Congress on Monday. As you know, the Premier loves surprises.”

  15. What are Muslims supposed to do if Mecca is rendered uninhabitable? Pray towards the giant plume of smoke? Make pilgrimages in Hazmat suits?

  16. I can’t believe you guys can’t see tne long arm of Michael Moore in all of this!

    …All of the Saudi reserves go up in flames and who profits? Sure, Chaney’s cronies get rich and Bush’s buddies in Texas do just fine, but the real winner would be Moore. What a documentary!

  17. So how many crushed OxyContin pills did Posner and Pipes snort to write this?

  18. …All of the Saudi reserves go up in flames and who profits? Sure, Chaney’s cronies get rich and Bush’s buddies in Texas do just fine, but the real winner would be Moore. What a documentary!

    You’re close… but consider this: when the Saudi oil fields blow, who’s going in to put ’em out? That’s right, American contractors.

    And who goes in to guard ’em? The US military.

    And you know who profits the most whenever our military goes anywhere to do anything, right? Lee Greenwood. Think about it.

  19. Self-destruct system? Bombs are hardly necessary.
    Anyone who has lived and worked in the Kingdom knows that the surest way to destroy anything is let the Saudis run it by themselves. Without Western expats to do the thinking and 3rd world expats to do the heavy lifting, they’re helpless. Deliberately helpless, true, but still helpless.

  20. Anybody ever get that email about “If I were an evil mastermind…”? Where the author points out all the dumb things that evil masterminds do in movies?

    If there is such a doomsday device to destroy the Saudi oil fields, I really hope that Crown Prince Abdullah wasn’t dumb enough to have the words “self destruct” written on the button in big bold letters. Maybe Abdullah should do like the author of that email and hire an 8 year old kid to inspect his security system for flaws.

    Anyway, I’m sure that if such a doomsday device were ever used, most of the Saudis would blame it on Israel. Am I right?

  21. Doomsday devices that could destroy an entire kingdom with a single switch? Just sounds a little too sci-fi for me

    It is not only possible, it is essential!

  22. Sounds like someone wanted to promote a book. So they released some extremely provocative hints about the material in the book. I’d bet that post-release, people will realize then had been snookered.

    Was it Woodwards last book that did that to great effect?

  23. or a well-placed Revelations obsessive who seeks to hasten the Kingdom of Heaven

    come on, that couldn’t possibly happen.

    oh, wait, never mind.

  24. Isn?t petroleum production already very hazardous? Would wearing anti-radiation suits make distillation impossible? Isn?t there enough of a profit margin in the gas business to pay outrageous extras for hazardous duty?

    Didn?t the US fight Iraq in 1990 partly so Saddam couldn?t control both the Iraqi and Saudia Arabian oil fields, which would give him a large proportion of the world?s oil reserves?

    Is this a threat or an invite to the US?

  25. Don’t believe it. With the thousands of expats they have out there running things, if they had a system like that, somebody would have gone public by now

  26. “How about the eco-terrorist possibility–assuming “the device” is rigged in such a way it would cause only localized enviromental damage?”

    Think globally, act locally. Heh.

  27. Never mind who would benefit. Any system with that much explosives that dispersed will go off by accident.

  28. Dammit! Marwan! I almost had you. Now you have given away the finale of my oh so violent program 24.

    Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!

    Geez. How many bad days can a guy have?

    Jack “I’m gonna make you swallow this towel and then slowly pull your stomach out your mouth” Bauer
    .
    .
    .
    Oh Canada!

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