What’s on all of our minds is the current uptick in tensions between the US and Iran and how this has and may continue to affect the region, particularly the Gulf and the energy sector. The assessment of our analyst team is that things are unlikely to escalate to the level of an actual conflict, but as security professionals, we still need to take into consideration the risk of both miscalculations, as well as that of smaller yet still significant developments that may affect the regional landscape.
Whilst there are always tensions in the Middle East with rhetoric and brinkmanship as a constant backdrop, this can be escalated when external players decide to make their mark. This can be even more worrying when there is no clear message and direction as people will always assume the worst.
For companies located and operating in areas that would be affected if this escalated even further, this is the time to check your security structure is both effective and fit for purpose. Checks should be made on proactive and reactive safety and security measures. It is not often you get the luxury of receiving a warning, so do not make the mistake of ignoring it.
Le Beck’s analysts take a brief look at the recent Houthi drone attack against two Saudi pumping stations, as well as the context of the attack.
Two oil pumping stations located along the Eastern Province-Yanbu Port pipeline were targeted by Houthi drones on May 14. After Houthi-controlled outlets claimed that the group launched seven armed drones against “vital Saudi installations”, the Saudi Minister of Energy confirmed that the attack damaged the two facilities and temporarily halted operations along the pipeline as a basic safety precaution. The targeted installations are Pumping Station 8 (location), about 330 km west of Riyadh, and Pumping Station 9 (location), about 250 km east of Medina. Confirmation of the incident further led to an increase in oil prices.
This is highly significant as it comes amid growing tensions between Iran and the US and comes on the heels of the May 12 “act of sabotage” off the coast of the UAE against four commercial vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers – which some US officials claim may have been carried out by Iran. Indeed, the timing and targets of these recent attacks are in line with Tehran’s explicit threats to disrupt oil flow should it come under attack or should the US attempt to disrupt its own oil exports, along with warnings that Iran will look to retaliate against Washington’s interest and allies.
As assessed in Le Beck’s latest Weekly Security Brief, the recent attacks may be meant to “call Trump’s bluff”. Despite the US President’s harsh rhetoric, Tehran may indeed assess that Washington, and the President in particular, still remains uninterested in a large-scale military escalation and is merely trying to push it to come back to the negotiation table.
In this context, the use of a group backed by Iran is a common tactic employed by Tehran to convey a threatening message across the region, whilst maintaining plausible deniability. By doing so, Iran aims to show its readiness to retaliate and increase its deterrence over the US without actually triggering a potentially destructive conflict.
As notable is the use of drones so deep inside Saudi territory. While the use of armed drones by the Houthis is not uncommon, these attacks had thus far largely taken place close to the border region or inside Yemen. The May 14 was, however, conducted hundreds of kilometers inside Saudi Arabia. What’s more, the level of accuracy of the attack is also notable, as it targeted two specific pumping stations. While satellite images suggest the drones may not have inflicted significant damage to the installations, the mere fact that these managed to get so close to the pumping stations without being shot down raises questions both as to what kind of drones were used, as well as to the effectiveness of Saudi Arabia’s air defence. Beyond that, the use more effective weaponry, and targeting of such vital installations further serves to highlight the possibility that the decision to do so may not have been taken by the Houthis alone, but also approved or even directed by Tehran.
This short interview takes a look at what’s on our CEO’s mind this week, and how Le Beck responds to regional developments to support our clients.
As we entered the month-long Ramadan holiday, and as a security professional my thoughts are turned towards securing our clients’ assets during the month-long holiday. Unfortunately, over the past years, several jihadist groups, particularly the Islamic State have used the holiday to try and carry out as many attacks as possible. This year even more than the others we are paying close attention to the group’s activities and taking measures to secure our client’s assets. This stems from our analyst team’s assessment that the group will try to counterbalance the loss of its “Caliphate” through a series of attacks, a trend we have already seen over the past weeks.
We are advising our clients to make sure they understand their response capabilities in the event of an incident and also making sure their call tree is tested for the Crisis Management Team. It is also good practice to keep a closer eye on those travelling during this period and make sure all their contact numbers are up to date.
1. What is your role in Le Beck and how did you get to the security field?
I have two separate roles at Le Beck being both the company’s Operations Manager and a Senior Security Advisor.
As Le Beck’s Operations Manager, I coordinate and manage all operational activities from the development of the proposal to the completion of the contract. In addition, I work with client organizations (Corporate) and individuals to provide independent, objective and realistic security and safety advice as identified within the projects Scope of Works.
In general terms I manage, coordinate, support and assist the CEO in business functions and promote, maintain and enforce the company’s core values. I also hold delegated executive decision making powers as provided by the CEO to undertake administrative, marketing and business development functions on his behalf and that of the Company.
As a Senior Security Adviser, I work with client organizations (Corporate) and individuals to provide independent, objective and realistic security and safety advice as identified within the projects Scope of Works.
Security Risk and Threat Assessments
Security and Safety Reviews, Plans, Audits and Training
Security and Safety Plans, Policies and Procedures
Crisis Management and Evacuation Planning
Security Systems Project Management and Concept Design
Security Consultancy and Training
Fraud and Internal Crime Investigations
IT and Cyber Security Assessments
Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery
I left the British Military in 2004 having served for 16 years as a Military Policeman in various theaters around the world. Since leaving I have worked in both the private and public sectors as a “Security Manager,” before moving into consultancy.
2.How do you think protecting critical infrastructure differs from other assets? What are the main challenges?
Critical infrastructure is exactly that; critical. Therefore, the impact of any would-be damage or destruction would have a direct detrimental effect on the economy of any given country – Oil refineries in KSA being one such example. If there is any interruption to the supply of oil, then clearly that would have a devastating effect on the National economy. However, that is not to say that assets not deemed part of the critical national infrastructure are any less important; damage or destruction of a Bank Head Office for example, would clearly be of detriment to the company, although not necessarily so of the national infrastructure.
The main challenge to protecting national infrastructure stems mainly from the fact that any mitigating factors are defined by a governing body and are usually non-negotiable and not necessarily the most cost-effective way of securing and/or protecting any given asset.