US embassy cables: Fears of terrorist attacks on Saudi oilfields
US embassy cables: Fears of terrorist attacks on Saudi oilfields
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 RIYADH 001619
WHITE HOUSE FOR OVP, CENTCOM FOR POLAD, NAVCENT AND J5, DOE
FOR KKOLEVAR AND WBRYAN, DEPARTMENT FOR P SMULL, NEA
GCRETZ, S/CT AND NEA/ARP
EO 12958 DECL: 10/28/2018
TAGS ECON, ENRG, EPET, MARR, MCAP, MOPS, OVP, PGOV, PREL,
SUBJECT: SAG AGREES TO USG STEPS TO PROTECT OIL FACILITIES
REF: A. RIYADH 1579 B. RIYADH 1408 C. RIYADH 1298
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Classified By: Charge' d'Affaires David Rundell for Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)
- The Saudi government agrees to a program under which the US military will train and equip a Saudi force to protect the country's oil fields, desalination plants and any future nuclear energy reactors. Key passage highlighted in yellow.
- Read related article
2. (S) SUMMARY. The Joint Commssion on Critical Infrastructure Protection and Border Security (JCCIP) initiative in Saudi Arabia made significant progress this week. On October 27, a Department of Energy delegation led by DOE DAS Wm. Bryan, with AmEmbassy Riyadh Charge' d'Affaires in attendance, presented a three-hour Vulnerability Assessment (VA) of the Abqaiq oil facility (Reftel A) to Saudi Ministry of Interior senior-level and working staff, which included a 40-minute briefing/discussion with Assistant Minister for National Security Affairs Prince Mohammed bin Naif (MBN). DOE's recommendations were enthusiastically accepted by MBN, with further JCCIP work agreed to. Concurrent with the VA presentation, the deployed CENTCOM representative in Riyadh presented the draft Letter of Request (LOR) to MBN to establish the Office of the Program Manager - Facilities Security Force (OPM-FSF), which will be responsible to train and equip the Saudi security forces being formed to protect Saudi energy production facilities, desalination plants and future civil nuclear reactors. The Saudis remain highly concerned about the vulnerability of their energy production facilities and reaffirmed their strong desire for a long-term USG commitment to implement the JCCIP agreement. END SUMMARY.
FULL SPEED AHEAD ON ASSESSMENTS
3. (S) DOE presented a two-day, thorough, highly-technical evaluation of Abqaiq's security capability to MOI, FSF and ARAMCO officials on Oct. 27 and 28, with the introductory briefing consisting of a three-hour presentation. The conclusion is that the Abqaiq facility's safety standards are world-class and its current security measures would counter a repeat of the Feb. 2006 failed Al Qaeda VBIED attack, but Abqaiq remains highly vulnerable to other types of sophisticated terrorist attacks. DOE provided concrete steps for the Saudis to enhance and harden Abqaiq's security architecture.
4. (S) MBN was impressed with DOE's Abqaiq VA and expressed his appreciation for DOE's work. He ordered his staff to immediately implement DOE's recommendations to improve Abqaiq's security and requested DOE to perform further VAs. The Ras Tannurah oil facility was named as the next site to be assessed, with its VA to be conducted as soon as possible. It was agreed DOE would establish three VA teams dedicated solely to evaluating Saudi Arabia's critical infrastructure sites, which number approximately 100. These DOE teams would be joined by MOI members who would learn the necessary skill sets from DOE to then perform their own individual VAs of sites. The goal would be MOI to eventually take the lead in VAs of all remaining sites, with DOE supporting the MOI VA teams. This would maximize the number of sites able to be assessed in the shortest time period. DOE also invited MOI, ARAMCO and CENTCOM to join them at Sandia Labs to wrap up the Abqaiq assessment and demonstrate the models used in formulating their recommendations. This visit is expected to
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be conducted by the end of 2008.
5. (S) It was noted during the presentation that the ARAMCO officials were uneasy with MOI encroaching onto their territory. ARAMCO expressed concern that "Too much security will make it too hard for us (ARAMCO) to do our jobs in producing oil." While it was telling to see firsthand some the interagency disputes within the SAG, an MOI official in a sidebar confided in us that ARAMCO's concerns would be addressed, but that MBN, who reportedly has the final say in the protection of Saudi critical infrastructure, would not allow Saudi oil facilities to be left vulnerable, regardless of ARAMCO's complaints.
6. (S) This same MOI official mentioned that the protection of Saudi critical infrastructure is expected to eventually be 25% of MOI's budget. MOI's current annual budget is approx. USD 1 billion. The protection of Saudi critical infrastructure will likely lead to a significant increase in MOI's budget as the FSF alone will be 35,000 strong, minimum, with an additional 20 per cent more forces for port and border security. DOE's security projects and future to-be-determined JCCIP programs with other USG agencies will add even more to MOI's budget requirements.
7. (S) The draft LOR for OPM-FSF prepared by CENTCOM was presented to MBN. This draft explicitly lays out on one page the exact wording for the SAG's formal request to the USG to establish OPM-FSF. MBN directed his staff to prepare such a letter for his signature. Once we receive this letter, CENTCOM will then respond with a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) which will allow CENTCOM to begin building up OPM-FSF's personnel and equipment structure. MOI indicated they plan to present the formal Saudi LOR to GEN Petraeus when he visits the Kingdom, currently scheduled for Nov. 8.
JOINT WORKING GROUPS
8. (S) A related discussion item was the role of the Joint Working Groups (JWG). It was previously established there would be three JWG: FSF, Industrial Security and Internal Security (Reftel B). During our recent meetings, it was clarified and agreed to that "Joint" will refer to USG-SAG only, not inter-agency. When these working groups meet, it will be a single USG voice in dialogue with a single SAG voice. Inter-agency USG discussions will take place at the JCCIP Cell in Riyadh or in Washington.
9. (S) DAS Bryan, in discussions with MOI officials, requested clarification on MOI's view and scope of the Industrial Security Joint Working Group. The "Industry" of focus is the oil industry and all other industries that support the oil sector. This also includes interdependencies on other utilities, in particular electricity and water. This will enable DOE to better perform the system level analysis as opposed to individual site assessments. Additionally, this insight enables DOE to staff the Industrial Security JWG with appropriate USG representation.
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"WE MUST PROTECT IT TOGETHER"
10. (S) In a private meeting between MBN and the Charge', MBN conveyed the SAG's, and his personal, sense of urgency to move forward as quickly as possible to enhance the protection of Saudi Arabia's critical infrastructure with the priority being its energy production sites. MBN related how his grandfather, King Abdulaziz, had the vision of forming a lasting strategic partnership with the United States. MBN stressed he shared this vision, and wants the USG's help to protect Saudi critical infrastructure. He commented that neither the Kingdom nor the U.S. would be comfortable with the "French or Russians" involved in protecting Saudi oil facilities. "We built ARAMCO together, we must protect it together." MBN also confirmed his travel dates to Washington will be Nov. 5 to 7.
11. (S) MOI officials queried us on the exact date U/S Wm. Burns, P, would travel to the Kingdom for the meeting of the Joint Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection and Border Security. The SAG expects it to be in mid-December after the Eid al-Adha (set to end Dec. 12), and request confirmation as soon as possible of P's exact travel date so they can prepare the appropriate agenda. Post requests the Department's confirmation of P's exact travel dates to Saudi Arabia for the next JCCIP.
12. (S) The Saudis now feel energized by DOE's VA, DOE's subsequent proposals and CENTCOM's assistance in establishing OPM-FSF. Likewise, they recognize many of their energy facilities remain at risk from Al Qaeda and other terrorists who seek to disrupt the global economy, and vigorously urge we continue assisting them to counter this threat. RUNDELL