Saudi Arabia is taking quite seriously Al Qaeda's threats to attack its oil infrastructure, and has announced the formation of a 35,000 man (surely there will be no burka-clad women in it, one supposes) new security force to guard critical facilities. The Financial Times (hat tip: Ummah News Links) reports:
The force already numbers about 5,000 personnel, a Saudi adviser said on Sunday. They are being trained in the use of new surveillance equipment, countermeasures and crisis management under a programme managed by US defence group Lockheed Martin, according to the Middle East Economic Survey in Nicosia.
The recruits are learning about laser security and satellite imaging from Lockheed on behalf of the Sandia National Laboratories' Defense Systems and Assessments Unit - a US government run unit in New Mexico, said MEES.
It will two years before the force reaches its full planned strength. But there are other forces available to protect the infrastructure:
Saudi Arabia has a 75,000-strong army, an air force of 18,000, a navy of 15,500 and an air defence force of 16,000. Its oil installations are protected from within by 5,000 agents employed by Aramco, the state oil company. It has more than 80 oil and gas fields and an estimated 11,000 miles of pipeline.
Any serious disruption of oil production and shipment would have serious consequences for the world economy, and would benefit other oil producers like Iran and its ally Chavez. So expect more efforts, like the previously unsuccessful ones, to attack Saudi pipelines, terminals, ports, refineries, wells, etc.