Saudi Forces Battle Armed Shiites in the Oil-Producing East

The threat to Middle East oil is a lot closer than generally reported. The brutal convulsions in Syria and impasse over Iran’s nuclear program grab top headlines day after day, but, oddly enough, the blowback from both these unresolved issues on two key Arab nations is ignored, although the vast installations of the oil colossus, Saudi Arabia, may be coming into jeopardy.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Gulf and intelligence sources report armed clashes in the Eastern Provinces of the oil kingdom touching directly on the security of Ras Tanura, the world’s largest export terminal, and Abqaig, the world’s largest oil processing facility. Any disruption of work at these two facilities – even a partial shutdown -would instantly impact world oil markets as devastatingly as Iranian mining of the Strait of Hormuz.
To put it this way: Tehran may be holding back from sowing underwater mines in Hormuz, while instead sowing “human mines” under Saudi oil installations.
The Obama administration like the Western media is treating the mounting upsets in the Saudi oil regions as an internal affair.
The outbreak of hostilities started July 6. They are still ongoing. They began with the arrest by Saudi security forces of dissident Shiite cleric Nimr Al Nimr in Awwamiya, after which, according the Saudi Press Agency of July 8, two Shiite men were killed although no clashes were reported.
The next day, the Interior Ministry in Riyadh issued a bland communiqué by mobile-phone text message saying “a limited number of people assembled in Awwamiya.”

A radical Shiite cleric familiar with the inside of Saudi jails

Some pretty heavy-handed censorship was clearly involved.
DEBKA-Net-Weeklys sources reveal what really happened: Straight after Al Nimr’s arrest, local security forces were confronted by Shiite protesters in Awwamiya, Al Qatif and other Shiite towns in the East. They were pre-organized for the following tactic: Around a thousand Shiite demonstrators poured onto the streets in groups. When Saudi security forces showed up, they melted into narrow alleyways while others pelted the forces from the rooftops with a deadly hail of automatic gunfire and Molotov cocktails.
This was not the first brush with security forces for Awwamiya, a village north of Al Qatif on the Arabian (Persian) Gulf, or for the radical Al Nimr.
In 2009, a much larger Shiite demonstration filled the streets after he was arrested for a rousing sermon urging Saudi Shiites to struggle for their own independent state. Then, too, the Interior Ministry accused Al Nimr of a role in orchestrating the Awwamiya riots.
Then, Tuesday, July 17, the Saudi Press Agency reported that four Saudi security personnel were injured in an attack by masked gunmen while on patrol in Saihat in another part of the oil-rich Eastern Province. Gunmen also fired at a police station in Awwamiya and threw a Molotov cocktail from racing motorcycles. One of the assailants was killed and three others escaped
The Riyadh-based news service was quoting Maj. Gen. Mansour Al Turki, the Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman for these reports, which came after a string of bottle bomb attacks against a courthouse and cars belonging to security officers, judges and courthouse staff.

Incapacitating Saudi oil without missiles?

This week, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counterterrorism sources disclose that, in response to heavy pressure from Riyadh, 37 Shiite clerics of the Eastern Regions issued a joint statement urging local youths to “steer away from violence.”
Their voices predictably fell on deaf ears, because the young Shiite rowdies staging the riots were now out of their control, as the clerics knew very well, and were taking their orders from Iranian and Hizballah terrorist agents who had infiltrated the kingdom from neighboring Bahrain.
”A new cycle of Shiite protests against the Saudi regime and its policing tactics is developing in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia,” Crispin Hawes, director for the Middle East and North Africa at Eurasia Group in London, wrote in an e- mailed note on Tuesday to the Omani GulfNews agency. “The immediate implications for state stability and crude oil production are limited, but the repercussions for the stability of the province in the longer term are potentially significant.”
Last Monday, July 9, Bahraini interior minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa visited Riyadh and promised his Saudi counterpart Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud that the island would "confront anyone trying to divide the ranks of the people."
The two men also discussed the uncovering of terrorism networks in Bahrain.
Neither minister referred to the troubles in the Saudi oil regions; nor did they name Iran as the prime mover behind the terrorist networks operating in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia under the guise of popular, pro-democracy protest movements.
But Riyadh got Tehran’s message, which is: There are more ways than shooting missiles for incapacitating Saudi Arabia’s oil installations.

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