Al Qaeda is urging jihadists to conduct attacks on U.S. and foreign oil tankers and strategic sea lanes in a new global campaign of economic warfare against the United States, according to the terrorist group’s latest English-language magazine.
"Even if a single supertanker (or even an ordinary westbound cargo-vessel) were to be attacked in one of the chokepoints or hijacked and scuttled in one of these narrow sea lanes, the consequences would be phenomenal," wrote al Qaeda member Hamza Khalid in the recently published, 117-page al Qaeda magazine "Resurgence."
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The magazine is a key recruiting tool and propaganda organ for English speakers from the group once headed by Osama bin Laden, whose death is lamented in one article by current leader Ayman al Zawahiri. The magazine contains articles on al Qaeda’s new drive in Southwest Asia, and recruiting women into its ranks, and makes vague references to al Qaeda’s current feud with the rival Islamic State, that has seized parts of Syria and Iraq.
The article on economic warfare includes maps showing strategic shipping lanes around the world and key oil chokepoints, like the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where up to 35 percent of the world’s ship borne oil passes, and Southeast Asia’s Strait of Malacca, the strategic passage for oil from the Middle East to Asia.
"It represents the Achilles heel not just of the energy market, but also of western economies dependent on oil from the Muslim world," Khalid stated.
"A sustained disruption in this supply system would not only increase insurance costs for international shipping, but also affect the price of oil globally."
Khalid called for attacks on both U.S. military facilities near oil chokepoints and energy supply lines.
Attacks on oil tankers would cause a spike in oil prices, increases in shipping rates and insurance, and a boost in military spending to assure open sea lanes, he stated.
"Simultaneous attacks on western shipping or western oil tankers (a sea-based version of the cargo plane bomb plot) in more than one chokepoint would bring international shipping to a halt and create a crisis in the energy market."
Khalid also called for attacks on western oil workers in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, as well as more sophisticated and hard-to-carry-out attacks against U.S. Navy facilities in Diego Garcia, Bahrain, and Djibouti.
"A coordinated effort to disrupt enemy shipping in the future in all of these regions would not only hurt the enemy economically, but also stretch their resources further in this global war," Khalid stated.
American al Qaeda member Adam Gadahn stated in a second article headlined "besiege them" that "it is time for us to fight fire with fire, and impose our own blockade and embargo on the Jews and crusaders, by hitting them where it hurts and striking the heart and lifeblood of their economy, represented by international trade and finance."
Gadahn said the global economic system currently is "fragile and vulnerable" as the result of unrest in the Arab and Muslim world and debt and budget crises in Europe and the United States.
Al Qaeda plans to use the current "war of attrition" underway against the United States to force the collapse of the global economic system.
Targets for the economic warfare campaign include cargo ships and merchant vessels in "Islamic waters," actions aimed at closing off canals and straits, and disrupting shipping routes "wherever and however possible."
"Any of their ships are legitimate targets, but exports are the key to any economy, including the economies of the West," Gadahn wrote. "The mujahideen must seek to deprive the enemies of the precious oil and mineral resources they are stealing from us and using to fuel their war machine, by sabotaging crusader-run oil wells and mines in Islamic lands and destroying pipelines before the oil reaches the coast and falls into enemy hands, and by sinking their supertankers and sabotaging their oil rigs in enemy waters, and in the process, ruining their lucrative fishing industries."
Other economic measures include a boycott of U.S. products and retailers including Walmart, McDonald’s, Proctor and Gamble, Microsoft, Nestle, and Unilever. The use of banks also is to be avoided and al Qaeda is advocating reinstating the use of gold and silver as a medium of exchange.
Gadahn stated that al Qaeda wants Muslims to break away from the global financial system.
"The path to victory over our enemies and the establishment of our caliphate isn’t confined to armed action alone, but includes all legitimate ways and means which support, strengthen, and advance the military effort and lead to our success in this battle for the future of the Muslim [world]," Gadahn said. "So don’t delay, and play your part in the jihad today, whether your part be military, financial, economic, educational, motivational, or otherwise."
Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, a former Special Forces commando and undersecretary of defense for intelligence during the George W. Bush administration, said Islamic terrorists are keenly aware of American reliance on Mideast oil.
"They know that our economy is fragile and can be devastated by sudden increases in the global oil prices," Boykin said in an email. "It is obvious that they will try to attack our weaknesses and oil is clearly one of our major vulnerabilities."
The article is another indication that Islamists "are indeed an enemy and they have in fact declared war on America," Boykin said.
Kevin Freeman, an expert on economic warfare, said al Qaeda as early as 2005 outlined a timeline for its war against the West that included fomenting an Arab uprising and then launching an economic warfare campaign.
"It has always been an economic war," Freeman said. "From the first attacks on the World Trade Center until now, al Qaeda has used an economic warfare playbook modeled on the Chinese doctrine of unrestricted warfare."
Freeman said the al Qaeda magazine articles bolster the findings of a report to the Pentagon in 2009 on economic warfare outlining terrorists’ use of the tactic of attacking oil targets.
"Our enemies know that stopping the flow of oil, crashing our stock market, or collapsing the dollar are the paths to America’s destruction," he said.
"The al Qaeda timeline has, since at least 2005, planned a new caliphate and Islamic State aimed against the West and Israel," he added. "To accomplish this, they knew even back then, required an attack on Western economies."
Freeman said the United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on weapons systems but has ignored repeated credible evidence of economic attacks and threats against our financial infrastructure and power grid.
The al Qaeda threat to oil shipments also underscores the need to end America’s reliance on foreign oil supplies with North American oil production, Freeman said.
"We also have to shore up our financial infrastructure, protect the dollar, and guard our power grid," said Freeman, author of a book on the subject, Game Plan.
"Individuals must prepare their investment portfolios for resilience in an economic war."