Last Friday, the United Arab Emirates acknowledged that damage sustained by a Japanese supertanker on July 28, 2010, in the Persian Gulf, was the result of terrorism——not a “huge wave” as was announced earlier. The attack demonstrated the increasing danger of maritime terrorism against critical energy infrastructure. Prior to this , both UAE and Iran discounted the possibility of a terrorist attack.
However, the Abdulla Azzam Brigades, an Islamist terrorist organization connected to al- Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the explosion aboard the oil supertanker last Monday, showing the picture of a man they asserted carried out a suicide attack on the tanker.
Previously, the UAE government had said that the Japanese tanker M. STAR was passing through the Strait of Hormuz when it was exposed to a high wave as the result of an earthquake shock. Workers repaired the damage to the vessel and the attack caused no human injuries or oil spills.
The Azzam Brigades first gained notoriety when they took responsibility for the bombing of an Egyptian resort at Sharm al-Sheikh in October 2004.
This is not the first time oil shipping lines and Middle Eastern production have been targeted by al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The French tanker LIMBOURG and the HQ of Saudi Aramco were attacked earlier. Iraqi pipelines and infrastructure have also been repeatedly damaged.
It is critical to prepare effective, multilateral responses to counter these potentially devastating attacks, which are part of al-Qaeda’s stategy to cause the collapse of the Western economy.
A simulation run by The Heritage Foundation in 2008 indicated that wide-scale attacks against energy resources and infrastructure could drastically increase the price of oil, decreasing industrial output and further impoverishing and stunting the growth of states with energy-dependent economies.
It could also increase Western reliance on bad actors like Venezuela and Iran, who pursue blatantly hostile foreign policies towards the U.S. and its allies.
If more wide-spread attacks on tanker traffic occur, The Heritage Foundation simulation shows that, acting cooperatively, major producer and consumer nations could ameliorate the severity of long-term disruptions. Given al-Qaeda’s determination to attack the West’s energy supply, the foundation for such cooperation must be laid now—rather than in the aftermath of a crippling terrorist strike.