Last week, just before the Charlie Hebdo attack, ISIS sent a suicide team across the border into Saudi Arabia. Here's what happened.
- The attack was successful. The team found and killed the Saudi general (Oudah al-Belawi) in charge of the country's nothern border zone at the outpost he was visiting (here's a pic of the state funeral for some of the men killed in the attack).
- The target was significant. General Oudah al-Belawi was in charge of the multi-billion dollar Saudi effort to secure the northern border against ISIS. Not only has Saudi Arabia sent 30,000 additional troops to guard the northern border, it's building a highly automated 600-mi security wall to protect itself (lots of robots and sensors). Here's a great graphic of the monstrosity from the Telegraph. My take: What a waste of time and effort.
- It demoralized the Saudi military. This attack deeply undermines the morale of Saudi troops on the border. If ISIS can kill a top general...
Saudi Arabia on the edge
Here why this attack is signficant.
- It tells us that ISIS is starting to focus on Saudi Arabia --> with good reason. The reason is that there's simply no other way to unite the various groups under the ISIS banner. ISIS, like all open source movements, needs to keep moving in order to stay alive (like a shark). Right now, ISIS has stalled. A jihad to retake the holy sites from the corrupt regime in Riyadh can serve as a simple plausible promise that can reignite the open source war ISIS started, on a global scale.
- The Saudis are vulnerable. The attackers knew exactly when the general was going to be at the outpost. This tells us that the Saudi military is rife with ISIS sympathisers and/or active members. If so, the Saudi military may melt away when facing jihadis (or switch sides) in the same way 30,000 Iraqi troops did early last year a couple of hundred miles to the north.
- It explains the timing of Charlie Hebdo. Not only was it an attack that has gained ISIS favor with millions of Saudis (given how racist and anti-islamic the magazine's cartoons were), it was also (and more importantly) a distraction. It has successfully distracted the collective west, by pulling them into another "war on terrorism." This attack is something I call a Red Queen's trap, since it results in damage to both the contestants in the struggle.
What does this mean for Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia knows it is in trouble, that's why the Saudis are trying to buy influence in the west through a cheap oil policy (at the same time, a low price puts the hurt on US frackers and ISIS oil smugglers alike). However, ISIS trumped this effort with Charlie Hebdo. It will be difficult for the Saudis to convince the west they are the real target after the attack in Paris. Here's what this means:
- We're likely to see ISIS make a big push into Saudi Arabia this spring. This push may result in some very, very rapid gains by ISIS as Saudi troops melt away and/or join ISIS. The big question? If ISIS does gain a foothold: do the Saudi's accept foreign troops/airpower at the cost of their legitimacy, or do they go down fighting solo?
- The oil price dip we're currently experiencing will rapidly reverse as soon as it's clear that ISIS is gearing up a real jihad to retake Mecca and Medina. $150 a barrel or more by the end of the year, once this gets going (or much more as it puts all of the gulf aristos in full panic mode simultaneously).
- The rapid swing in oil price will plunge the perpetually stagnant western economies into a simultaneous rout. However, as bad as that will be, it will of little consequence compared to the damage the global financial system will do to us as hundreds of trillions of dollars in explosive financial derivatives topple the ziggurat of western debt we've so foolishly built.