Exxon’s foreign staff to return to Iraqi oilfield with extra security

Iraqi soldiers keep guard at the entrance of the West Qurna-1 oilfield operated by Exxon Mobil near Basra, Iraq, May 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 31 May 2019
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Exxon’s foreign staff to return to Iraqi oilfield with extra security

  • Exxon asked for extra security from the police and army at work sites and residences and Iraq agreed, the officials said
  • The company is the lead contractor in a long-term deal with Iraq’s South Oil Company to develop and rehabilitate the oil field and increase production

BASRA: Exxon Mobil employees will start returning to Iraq’s West Qurna 1 oilfield on Sunday after the government agreed to provide extra security, two senior Iraqi oil officials told Reuters on Friday.
Senior company management and essential engineers would be among the first employees to return, the Iraqi officials said, two weeks after Exxon pulled its 60 or so foreign staff from the oilfield and flew them to Dubai.
The evacuation came just days after the United States withdrew non-essential staff from its embassy in Baghdad, citing a threat from neighboring Iran.
Exxon asked for extra security from the police and army at work sites and residences and Iraq agreed, the officials said. The company has received letters of assurance from the Iraqi oil ministry and Basra Oil Company.
Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban at the time called the evacuation “unacceptable and unjustified,” saying it was a political move, rather than borne out of genuine security concerns. He said he had sent a letter to Exxon Mobil after the staff left asking for the company to immediately return to work at the southern oilfield.
Exxon Mobil is the lead contractor in a long-term deal with Iraq’s South Oil Company to develop and rehabilitate the oil field and increase production.
Production was not affected by the evacuation and work continued normally, overseen by Iraqi engineers, Iraqi officials said at the time. Production remained at 440,000 barrels per day (bpd) and Iraqi officials later said they would increase it to 490,000 bpd shortly.


Trump says fresh US sanctions on Iran will target supreme leader, foreign minister

Updated 45 min 14 sec ago
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Trump says fresh US sanctions on Iran will target supreme leader, foreign minister

  • Trump said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of drone attack
  • Washington has repeatedly imposed sanctions on Tehran since last year

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order that would impose fresh sanctions on Iran, amid increased tensions between the long-time foes.

Trump initially told reporters the sanctions, which will target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his office, were in response to Tehran's downing of a US drone last week. Tehran has said the drone was flying in its airspace, which Washington has denied.

Later, Trump said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone.

The US will also blacklist Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and block "billions" more in Iranian assets as part of expanded sanctions, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday.

Mnuchin told reporters Zarif would be added to an economic sanctions list "later this week," adding that eight top military commanders from Iran's Revolutionary Guards have now also been blacklisted.

The US has also blamed Iran for attacks earlier this month on two oil tankers at the entrance of the Gulf of Oman. Iran, in turn, has denied that it is to blame.

Washington has repeatedly imposed sanctions on Tehran since last year, when the US withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing of sanctions. Trump’s administration has said the deal struck under his predecessor President Barack Obama did not do enough.

Trump has said he would be open to talks with Iranian leaders, but Tehran has rejected such an offer unless Washington drops the sanctions.

The Trump administration wants to force Tehran to open talks on its nuclear and missile programmes and its activities in the region.

The US also accuses Iran of encouraging allies in Yemen to attack Saudi targets. In a joint statement on Monday, the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and UK expressed concern over Middle East tensions and the dangers posed by Iranian "destabilizing activity" to peace and security in Yemen and the region.