Cablegate: Unprecedented Meeting Between Usg and Sag On

Published: Thu 5 Jun 2003 07:04 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 RIYADH 008811
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/11/2016
REASONS 12958 1.4 B, D, AND E
1. (S/NF) In light of recent threats to petroleum
infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, on 31 October Vice Admiral
Walsh, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander,
U.S. Fifth Fleet, and Dhahran Consul General Kincannon met
Saudi Arabian representatives from the Royal Saudi Naval
Forces (RSNF), Ministry of Interior (the Mabahith, Coast
Guard, and the Facilities Security Forces) and Saudi Aramco
for the first time at the King Abudulazziz Naval Base, in
Jubail City. Vice Admiral (VADM) Walsh offered U.S. military
support in thwarting potential attacks on critical Saudi
infrastructure, and his staff briefed the Saudi Arabian
representatives on Fifth Fleet capabilities. Rear Admiral
(RADM) Fahad Ahmed Al Kayyal, Commander of the Eastern Fleet,
led the Saudi delegation, welcomed assistance, and
highlighted the need for technical information sharing.
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Saudi Participation Included Key Agencies, Including
Newly-Established Facility Security Force (FSF)
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2. (S) In addition to RADM Al Kayyal, most major Saudi
Arabian security agencies were present at the meeting,
including the Ministry of Interior,s newly-established
Facility Security Force (FSF) formed to protect critical
petroleum infrastructure. Key Saudi Arabian meeting
participants included:
-- HRH Commander Sultan bin Khalid Al Faisal Al Saud, RSNF
Special Forces, Commander Task Force 88;
-- Brigadier General Khalid Ali Al Humidan, Mabahith,
"International Relations and Cooperation;"
-- Brigadier General Dr. Saad bin Khalid Al Jabri, Special
Advisor to the Assistant Minister of the Interior for
Security Affairs;
-- Brigadier General Abdul Rahman Ibrahim Ibrahim,
Commander of the Border Forces (including the Coast Guard)
in the Eastern Province;
-- Major General Saad bin Mohammed Al Majid, Commander,
-- General Abdullah Bin Y. al-Zahrani, Coast Guard
Commander, Jubail;
-- Mr. Samir Raslan, Saudi Aramco, General Manager
Industrial Security Operations;
-- Major General Ahmed bin Mohammad Al Rubayan, Eastern
Area Commander; and
-- Captain Mohammed al Amri, RSN Eastern Fleet Operations
U.S. Mission participants included Dhahran Consul General
Kincannon, Acting Defense Attache Hobbes, and Energy Attache
--------------------------------------------- --
VADM Walsh Upbeat on Cooperation to Protect
Critical Petroleum Infrastructure
--------------------------------------------- --
3. (S/NF) VADM Walsh stressed the U.S. Navy's willingness
to be of assistance in protecting critical Saudi petroleum
maritime infrastructure, and underscored his openness to
hearing all feedback on the usefulness of NAVCENT and
Coalition operations and the manner in which they are
conducted. His staff delivered a briefing on the Fifth
Fleet,s maritime and aerial reconnaissance capabilities for
the Saudi interlocutors. VADM Walsh,s staff offered
consequence management assistance in the event of a major oil
spill. Saudi Aramco,s Samir Raslan noted Aramco was
generally well-prepared for even a major oil spill, but
welcomed assistance as needed.
--------------------------------------------- -
RADM Al Kayyal Stresses Need for Technical
Information Sharing and Coordination
4. (S/NF) RADM Al Kayyal thanked VADM Walsh and NAVCENT for
offering support and cooperation. Brigadier General Al
Humidan noted on-going threats to Saudi Arabian petroleum
infrastructure from Saudi Arabian extremists and Iraqi
national Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, whom he characterized as "the
Al Qaida leader for Iraq, Syria, and the Arabian Peninsula."
RADM Al Kayyal noted the importance of information sharing
and coordination, and specifically requested technical
information exchange focused on threat tactics. He suggested
a data link via the Eastern Fleet as a mechanism for doing
so. He remarked positively on a previously-planned office
call for 1 November in Bahrain at the NAVCENT Headquarters.
RADM Al Kayyal Laments Difficulty of
Ascertaining Small Vessels' Intent
5. (S/NF) RADM Al Kayyal stressed the difficulties
confronting the RSNF in policing an Arabian
Gulf populated with many thousands of small fishing boats.
He regretted the difficulty of ascertaining the intent of
small vessels when they approach critical petroleum
installations, noting fishermen in the region predominantly
use small dhows and skiffs. He lamented problems with
evaluating the credibility of intelligence derived from the
Internet, such as recent threats against Ras Tanura petroleum
complex. He highlighted Ras Tanura,s vulnerabilities,
stating the Sea Islands, North Pier, and South Pier are this
vast complex,s most critical infrastructure. He remarked
coordinates from the latest threat intelligence could
indicate Al Qaida was using satellite imagery, not only
Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment on the ground.
RADM Al Kayyal underscored that terrorist groups only needed
to cause minor damage to a crude oil facility to shake up
international oil markets through media publicity.
Mabahith: We Need Original Text
for Intelligence Sharing
6. (S/NF) Brigadier General Al Humidan remarked on the need
for the U.S. to share intelligence in original Arabic, rather
than in translated form. He indicated the USG passed the SAG
intelligence about an impending attack on the Iraqi al Basra
Oil Terminal in translated form in 2004. He noted a critical
word was mis-translated, leading the RSNF to look out for
attacks on oil tankers, rather than for vessels launched by a
specific tribal group in Yemen. In April 2004, U.S. Navy
action thwarted a large attack on the oil terminal. However,
3 U.S. servicemen were killed when they approached and
intercepted a traditional dhow, which then exploded. The
speaker indicated that the mis-translation would have been
obvious to a native Arabic speaker who had seen the original
text, implying the RSNF would have been in a position to
better understand and possibly prevent the attack.
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Saudi Aramco Weighs In: Production Facilities not a
Critical Risk; Seaside Facilities Difficult to Protect
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7. (C) Saudi Aramco,s Samir Raslan downplayed the firm,s
vulnerabilities to terrorism against its production
infrastructure. He stated the company operates 3500 oil
fields, and Aramco can turn off pumping from any field from a
central control center if needed. (Note: Raslan likely meant
oil wells; Aramco operates approximately 80 oil fields, but
more than a thousand wells. While Raslan is generally
correct that Saudi Aramco,s production facilities are likely
some of the least vulnerable parts of its infrastructure, his
spin on Aramco,s large number of fields is a bit
over-optimistic. While Saudi Aramco has many oil fields,
production is heavily centralized in a small number. The
Ghawar and Safaniya fields account for total production about
6 million barrels per day (mbpd) of the 9.1 mbpd Saudi Arabia
typically produces. End note.) He noted Saudi Aramco
considers Abqaiq, Ras Tanura, and the gas facilities as
likely major targets. He remarked on the difficulty of
protecting seaside facilities, as it was very easy to use a
small dhow to carry out an attack. He noted Aramco had
designated restricted zones around its seafront facilities
marked by buoys, and used helicopters ferrying crews and
catering to conduct routine aerial surveillance.
Aramco Complaint: Mistakes Cost Us Money
8. (C) Saudi Aramco,s Samir Raslan stressed the need for
strong coordination when U.S forces are operating near Saudi
Aramco facilities. He recounted one incident (Note: we
believe this is an older incident) in which the U.S. Navy
mistakenly boarded a Saudi vessel, setting off rumors in the
"oil patch" of renewed hostilities in the Arabian Gulf. He
complained such incidents damage Saudi Aramco financially,
stating the incident cost the company $50 million USD, but
did not specify the nature of the costs. VADM Walsh
acknowledged the incident, and RADM Al Kayyal noted the U.S.
Navy had apologized for it. VADM Walsh agreed with Raslan on
the need for strong coordination.
Commander Notes Concern with Possible
Attacks on Oil and Gas Tankers
9. (S) HRH Commander Sultan provided his ground-level
assessment of working day to day to protect Saudi Aramco
facilities. He stated security patrols on most Saudi Aramco
facilities are routinely monitored, presumably by those with
intentions to attack the facilities. He believes most Saudi
Aramco facilities present a sufficiently hard target to
dissuade terrorists from attacking by sea. He instead argued
tankers at major terminals were significantly more at threat
than fixed facilities. He noted tankers often moor several
miles away from major terminals, especially if they are too
large for the berthing facilities. He noted these tankers
enjoyed relatively little security while taking on their
cargo, and it is relatively easy to penetrate the hull of an
empty ship. He also expressed his concern with an attack on
a gas tanker. (Note: Whether liquid petroleum gas (LPG) or
liquefied natural gas (LNG), he could not say. End note.)
He indicated the Saudi military had carried out simulations
showing that, in the case of an attack on a gas vessel in Ras
Tanura Channel, people as far away as Riyadh would die from
secondary explosions.
10. (S) This meeting was a first in bringing the U.S. Navy
together at a senior level with appropriate Saudi Arabian
interlocutors at senior levels from across the RSNF and
security agencies. VADM Walsh and RADM al Kayyal set a
friendly tone for open cooperation and communication. VADM
Walsh,s visit to Jubail was followed by RADM al Kayyal,s
office call to NAVCENT,s Bahrain headquarters on the
following day. We anticipate the meeting will prove to have
appropriately set the stage to move forward with action items
and a significant U.S. contribution to safeguarding critical
Saudi Arabian petroleum infrastructure in the coming months.
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