January 28, 2005
Since September 11, terrorist organizations of global reach like al Qaeda have identified the world's energy system as a major vulnerability and a certain way to deliver a blow to America's oil dependent economy. With attacks against the homeland becoming more difficult to execute due to heightened security, terrorists looking for a big bang might find oil, to quote al Qaeda, the "umbilical cord and lifeline of the crusader community," the object of the next major assault on the west, an assault that could wreak havoc with America's economy and way of life. Striking pipelines, tankers, refineries and oil fields accomplishes two desired goals: undermining the internal stability of the regimes they are fighting, and economically weakening foreign powers, like the U.S., with vested interests in their region. One front where terrorists are particularly interested in is the sea, where 60 percent of the world's oil is shipped. Whereas land targets are relatively well protected, the super-extended energy umbilical cord that connects the West and the Asian economies with the Middle East is more vulnerable than ever. In the past decade, the number of pirate attacks worldwide has tripled, and new evidence suggests that piracy is becoming a key tactic of terrorist groups. In light of al Qaeda's professed aim of targeting weak links in the global economy, this new nexus is a serious threat: most of the world's oil and gas is shipped through pirate-infested waters. Were terrorist pirates to hijack a large oil tanker, sail it into one of the strategic chokepoints, and scuttle it to block the sea-lane, the consequences for the global economy would be severe. Gal Luft will discuss how vulnerable we are to an energy Pearl Harbor and what the U.S. and its democratic allies can do to avoid such scenario.
Dr. Gal Luft is executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) and publisher of Energy Security. He specializes in strategy, geopolitics, terrorism, Middle East and energy security. He has published numerous studies and articles on security and energy issues in various newspapers and publications such as Foreign Affairs, Commentary Magazine, Middle East Quarterly, LA Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He appears frequently in the media and consults to various think tanks and news organizations worldwide. Dr. Luft is a member of the Committee on the Present Danger and a former lieutenant colonel in the Israeli Army. He holds degrees in international relations, international economics, Middle East studies and strategic studies and a doctorate in strategic studies from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University.