Rockets strike near US-linked oil installation and military bases in Iraq; three wounded
By LOUISA LOVELUCK AND MUSTAFA SALIM | The Washington Post | Published: June 19, 2019
BAGHDAD — Two rockets landed Wednesday near compounds housing staffers from global oil giant Exxon Mobil, wounding three people near Iraq's southern city of Basra — the latest in a string of attacks on U.S.-linked targets in the region.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strikes, which came shortly after Iraq's military reported three other rocket or mortar attacks this week near bases housing U.S. forces.
Concerns are growing among Iraqi and Western officials over the prospect of the country being drawn into a standoff between the United States and Iran, after the Trump administration blamed Tehran for attacks on two tankers in the Persian Gulf.
Iran backs a handful of powerful militias in Iraq, where more than 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed as part of an ongoing mission to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.
There are fears that if a conflict were to erupt between the United States and Iran, it would involve some of Tehran's proxy militias elsewhere in the region.
Iraq's military ordered security agencies Wednesday to investigate who was behind the spate of attacks, which have caused little damage.
Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul, the army's spokesman, said anyone trying to "interfere with security, spread fear or carry out an agenda that conflicts with Iraqi national interests" would be struck with an "iron fist."
The joinit operations command said said Wednesday's Katyusha rocket landed at dawn on the Burjesia residential compound west of Basra. An employee at the facility said that three Iraqi staffers from a local drilling company were being treated in a hospital for minor wounds.
The military later said that a second rocket had landed near the Rumaila oil field, causing no casualties.
Exxon Mobil preemptively evacuated several dozen international staff members from the nearby West Qurna oil field last month. Wednesday's attack came as they had just started to return, the local worker said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Iraq's joint operations command also said that a Katyusha rocket that hit a base housing a small contingent of U.S. troops in the northern city of Mosul late Tuesday landed on open ground and caused no casualties.
The United States partially evacuated its embassy in Baghdad last month after the Trump administration accused Iran, without providing evidence, of supporting "imminent attacks" on U.S. personnel in the region. Days later, a rocket exploded less than a mile away.
In a statement Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi issued a veiled warning to Washington and Tehran, saying that foreign powers should not use Iraqi soil to settle scores. In the event of meaningful escalation, analysts and diplomats say, it is unclear how far Iraq's government would be able to go to rein in some of the country's militias.