OPI UPDATE: AL QAEDA, SAUDI ARABIA, AND THE DEATH OF A KING
Reeling already from a spate of refinery shut-downs in the
On the risk side –the side of most immediate concern to the oil markets—the question is whether or not al Qaeda will be able to muster a reaction to the passing of the king. There is no question they would like to. The hallmark of al Qaeda’s attacks has been their coordinated, symbolic character, and times of government succession –especially in monarchies—are times of both weakness and symbolism. In addition,
Indeed, al Qaeda has worked hard since September 11 to destabilize the government there. Scores of Saudi’s and over a hundred foreigners have been killed in the country in sporadic attacks and abductions since 2003. During the spring of 2004 there were gun battles on an almost daily basis between militants and Saudi Security forces, briefly forcing many foreign companies there to rethink there work in and for the Kingdom. There are still thousands of al Qaeda sympathizers sprinkled throughout the population with the potential to create serious instability should al Qaeda be able to create momentum with a successful attack on the government or infrastructure.
While al Qaeda never quite has been able to galvanize the population, they have not stopped trying. Al Jazeera broadcast a videotape June 17 in which, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command condemned the recent push for democratic reform in the Middle East, singling out the governments of
If there is going to be an attack in
So, until this risk has subsided with a few weeks time the markets will be jittery. But what about intrigue? Is there any palace intrigue that could shake the oil markets as well? Much less likely so. The line of succession is clear. There are no sharp disagreements within the government. In the coming months and years, however, there will be tension as the Sudeiri clan –the direct descendants of the country’s founder—seek to ensure that line of succession stays with them, even though the King Abdullah is only the half-brother of King Fahd. This clan includes current Interior Minister Prince Nayef and his younger brother Prince Salman, along with Crown Prince Sultan.
But internecine intrigue such as this, as enthralling as it may be to the world’s Saudi watchers, will not impact oil markets nearly so much as the fear of attack in the weeks to come.