From Defense One:
ISIS Sets Its Sights on Saudi Arabia, and That’s Bad News for Washington
Two weeks. Two suicide bombings. Both targeting Shiites in a Sunni land. And both claimed by ISIS.
If this were Iraq or Syria, these attacks – sadly – wouldn’t be surprising. But it’s not. It’s Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s most precious sites and the region’s most powerful Sunni rulers — a relatively vast territory, kept remarkably stable by the ruthless application of authoritarian rule while its neighbors teeter under the destabilizing weight of popular revolution and terrorist intervention.From The Telegraph:
And that’s just the way the U.S. government likes its friend, Saudi Arabia. Because Washington needs stability there more than it needs to feel good about how the House of Saud achieves it.
But today, in Dammam, a city on the Saudi eastern coast, a man dressed as a woman blew himself up outside a Shiite mosque and killed three others. (The attack would have been far more devastating had guards not stopped the bomber from entering the mosque, forcing him back into a parking lot.) ISIS now is bragging that their man reached his target despite heightened security after the group’s first attack in the kingdom just eight days ago. That one, on another Shia mosque in a village called al Qadeeh, killed 21.
“They certainly are significant,” says Mike Singh, former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. “These attacks seem designed to exacerbate sectarian divisions, precisely as ISIS has sought to do elsewhere.”
Singh’s right; ISIS wants to encourage Sunni-Shia hostility throughout the Muslim world (perhaps as much as it wants to encourage violence between Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide) because it fits its caliphatic goals.
But for the United States, there’s more significance to read into this emerging ISIS assault on Saudi Arabia. And it’s the type of significance that should be at least discouraging if not downright worrisome to Washington’s Middle East policymakers.
What these attacks say is that Riyadh doesn’t have the comforting control over its land that Americans like to believe it does. And if the royal family doesn’t have its territory as buttoned down as Washington assumed, what other weaknesses has it been masking? What other vulnerabilities are now on view?...MORE
Opec under siege as Isil threatens world's oil lifeline
Thick black smoke rising from the Baiji oil refinery could be seen as a dirty smudge on the horizon as far away as Baghdad after fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) set fire to the enormous processing plant just over 100 miles north of the capital last week.The decision to torch the refinery, which once produced around a third of Iraq’s domestic fuel supplies, was made as the insurgents prepared to pull out of Baiji, which they captured last June in a victory that sent shock waves across world oil markets.A year on from the start of the siege and a shaky alliance of the Middle East’s major Arab powers, with the limited support of the reluctant US government, has failed to contain the expansion of Isil.
Completely unrelated:The problem for the US and the rest of the industrialised world is that the Middle East controls 60pc of proven oil reserves and with it the keys to the global economy. Should Isil capture a major oil field in Iraq, or overwhelming the government, the consequences for energy markets and the financial system would be potentially catastrophic.Many of the countries most threatened by the onslaught of the extremist group, which has grown out of the chaos of Syria but was initially dismissed as a wider threat to regional stability, will gather at the end of this week in Vienna for the meetings of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).
Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Iraq – which together account for two thirds of the cartel’s production – are all now affected by the inexorable march of the Isil jihadists but appear powerless to prevent it due to the widening sectarian schism between the Sunni and Shia Muslims across the region in the wake of the Arab spring uprisings five years ago.
Oil ministers gathering to decide on production levels at Opec’s secretariat building in Vienna will normally stay clear of wider geopolitical issues during their deliberations in the Austrian capital. However, the threat posed by Isil and its brutal brand of Islamist extremism is likely to force politics onto the agenda. It certainly can no longer be ignored.
According to Daniel Yergin, the energy expert and vice-chairman of IHS, the business information provider, the biggest threat to oil prices is the political chaos that threatens to engulf the Middle East, combined with the West’s reluctance to intervene.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Yergin argued that the price of a barrel of oil could skyrocket to levels above $100 per barrel if Isil is allowed to press deeper into Iraq, the second-largest producer in the cartel after Saudi Arabia.
“Isil presents a whole new reality for the region, which just isn’t reflected in the oil market at the moment,” said Mr Yergin. “It’s an increasingly grave situation for most of Opec and the Middle East. At some point the security issues will start to come back into the price of oil.”
Up to this point, oil markets have shrugged off the risk of a major supply disruption caused by the worsening security situation. Traders have remained focused on the market fundamentals that almost 2m barrels per day (bpd) of excess oil capacity will be more than enough to absorb any supply-driven shock. A rally in the price of Brent crude – a global benchmark – which began in January and saw prices push close to $70 per barrel has lost momentum amid signs that higher prices could revive drilling in the US. Just over six months ago when Opec’s 12 oil ministers last met in Vienna the cartel decided to continue pumping oil at a level of around 30m bpd, which effectively fired the first shots in an oil price war against shale drillers in North America, and Russia....MORE
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