By Fadi Assaf.
It is the strongman of the Saudi Ministry of Interior, Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef Bin Abdulaziz, son of the Crown Prince and Minister of Interior, in charge of security and counterterrorism, who is overseeing the establishment of a unit for the protection of oil installations. Al-Qaeda’s “number one enemy” in Saudi Arabia, quickly consolidating his position within the political system to anticipate his father’s possible sudden death before his accession to the throne, joined efforts with the Americans to form this unit. The deployment of this unit on strategic oil sites of the rich Eastern Province was officially announced on May 7 by the Saudi authorities and the official news agency SPA.
Mohammad has always known how to cooperate with Americans on the most critical issues, mainly the fight against terrorism, encouraged by his father, despite the susceptibility that Prince Nayef might have toward Washington. The Nayef clan and Washington share the same security obsession, which inevitably brings them closer. This would have enabled Mohammad Bin Nayef to obtain the mission to protect the most sensitive facilities – oil installations – in the Kingdom, and to exclude practically all other components of the political security system of the Kingdom. The Regular Army – which remains under the operational control of his cousin Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, son of former Crown Prince and Defense Minister Sultan Bin Abdulaziz – and the National Guard were excluded – which is under operational control of his other cousin, the son of King Abdullah Prince Mitaab Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz as Minister of State and Commander of the National Guard.
Before the decision was made in 2010 to create this special unit to protect oil facilities, the mission was assumed by a “gathering” involving the Ministries of Defense and Interior and the National Guard. This arrangement, both operational and political, sometimes lacked coordination and appropriate resources and expertise. The American intervention, as of 2008 according to WikiLeaks cables, in response to the failed terrorist attack against the Abqaiq oil facility, would have helped focus the mission in the hands of the Ministry of Interior and Prince Mohammad in particular, and develop a strategy more suited for securing oil and gas installations (oil and gas fields, pipelines, treatment plants, etc.).
This elite unit is also highly ambitious, as it is responsible for the protection of water desalination plants and possibly nuclear plants planned by the Saudi government. Eventually, the unit could include about 35,000 men (recruited with the utmost vigilance …). Highly marked by American influence, this “mixed” Saudi-American program involves, on the U.S. side, several agencies including the Pentagon, the Department of Energy and the Department of Justice, with ongoing supervision of USCENTCOM. Who, in Riyadh, is able to assume and ensure this continued and unconditional security cooperation with the United States better than the Sudaïri clan, and Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef Bin Abdulaziz in particular?
[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]WikiLeaks
Wednesday, 29 October 2008, 10:12 S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 RIYADH 001619 SIPDIS 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, PTER, SA
SUBJECT: SAG AGREES TO USG STEPS TO PROTECT OIL FACILITIES
REF: A. RIYADH 1579 B. RIYADH 1408 C. RIYADH 1298 RIYADH 00001619 001.2 OF 003 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 1. (U) This is an Action Request, see paragraph 11. 2. (S) SUMMARY. The Joint Commssion on Critical Infrastructure Protection and Border Security (JCCIP) initiative in Saudi Arabiamade 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.[/box]