Rocket hits site of foreign oil firms in Iraq’s Basra

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A rocket struck the site of the residential and operations headquarters of several global major oil companies, including US giant ExxonMobil, near Iraq’s southern city of Basra early on Wednesday. (AFP)
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Officials said the explosion will not affect oil exports. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 June 2019
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Rocket hits site of foreign oil firms in Iraq’s Basra

  • The rocket hit Burjeisa residential and operations headquarters west of Basra
  • Police said the rocket was a short-range Katyusha missile

BASRA, Iraq: A rocket struck the site of the residential and operations headquarters of several global major oil companies, including US giant ExxonMobil, near Iraq’s southern city of Basra early on Wednesday, wounding three people, Iraq’s military said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. It came after two separate attacks in as many days on bases housing US military personnel in Iraq, as tension rose between the United States and Iran.

The rocket hit the Burjesia site west of the city, according to police and a statement released by the military. Police earlier said two Iraqi workers were wounded.

Iraq’s Security Media Cell said they will deal with whoever is trying to disturb the peace of the country in a statement.

“[We] will not allow to mess with Iraq's security and obligations, and will strike with the hands of the iron of all those who beg for it,” they said.

The US evacuated hundreds of diplomatic staff from its Baghdad embassy last month, citing unspecified threats from Iran against US interests in neighboring Iraq, where Tehran supports some Shiite militias.

Wednesday’s incident came just as Exxon staff who were also evacuated after the diplomats’ departure had begun to return to Basra.

A security source said Exxon was evacuating 21 foreign staff immediately by plane to Dubai. Oil officials said operations including exports from southern Iraq were not affected by the incident.

Other companies operating at the site include Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Italy’s Eni SpA, the oil officials said.

Royal Dutch Shell said that all its staff in Iraq are accounted for and its operations in the country are normal.

“We remain vigilant and continue to monitor the security situation and liaise with local authorities,” said a Shell spokesman in a statement to Reuters.

The rocket was a short-range Katyusha missile, the military said. Police said it landed 100 meters from the part of the site used as a residence and operations center by Exxon.

Burjesia is near the Zubair oilfield operated by Eni.

Washington has ramped up sanctions pressure on Iran in recent months and says it has sent additional forces to the region over tension with the Islamic Republic.

It blames Tehran for attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. Tehran denies it was involved.

Both sides say they do not want war, but analysts warn such incidents could escalate violence in the region. 


US military to present several options to Trump on Iran

Updated 43 min 34 sec ago

US military to present several options to Trump on Iran

  • Donald Trump will also be warned that military action against the Islamic Republic could escalate into war
  • The US response could involve military, political and economic actions

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon will present a broad range of military options to President Donald Trump on Friday as he considers how to respond to what administration officials say was an unprecedented Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.
In a White House meeting, the president will be presented with a list of potential airstrike targets inside Iran, among other possible responses, and he also will be warned that military action against the Islamic Republic could escalate into war, according to US officials familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The national security meeting will likely be the first opportunity for a decision on how the US should respond to the attack on a key Middle East ally. Any decision may depend on what kind of evidence the US and Saudi investigators are able to provide proving that the cruise missile and drone strike was launched by Iran, as a number of officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have asserted.
Iran has denied involvement and warned the US that any attack will spark an “all-out war” with immediate retaliation from Tehran.
Both Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence have condemned the attack on Saudi oil facilities as “an act of war.” Pence said Trump will “review the facts, and he’ll make a decision about next steps. But the American people can be confident that the United States of America is going to defend our interest in the region, and we’re going to stand with our allies.”
The US response could involve military, political and economic actions, and the military options could range from no action at all to airstrikes or less visible moves such as cyberattacks. One likely move would be for the US to provide additional military support to help Saudi Arabia defend itself from attacks from the north, since most of its defenses have focused on threats from Houthis in Yemen to the south.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, emphasized to a small number of journalists traveling with him Monday that the question of whether the US responds is a “political judgment” and not for the military.
“It is my job to provide military options to the president should he decide to respond with military force,” Dunford said.
Trump will want “a full range of options,” he said. “In the Middle East, of course, we have military forces there and we do a lot of planning and we have a lot of options.”
US Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Michigan, said in an interview Thursday that if Trump “chooses an option that involves a significant military strike on Iran that, given the current climate between the US and Iran, there is a possibility that it could escalate into a medium to large-scale war, I believe the president should come to Congress.”
Slotkin, a former top Middle East policy adviser for the Pentagon, said she hopes Trump considers a broad range of options, including the most basic choice, which would be to place more forces and defensive military equipment in and around Saudi Arabia to help increase security.
A forensic team from US Central Command is pouring over evidence from cruise missile and drone debris, but the Pentagon said the assessment is not finished. Officials are trying to determine if they can get navigational information from the debris that could provide hard evidence that the strikes came from Iran.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday that the US has a high level of confidence that officials will be able to accurately determine exactly who launched the attacks last weekend.
US officials were unwilling to predict what kind of response Trump will choose. In June, after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone, Trump initially endorsed a retaliatory military strike then abruptly called it off because he said it would have killed dozens of Iranians. The decision underscores the president’s long-held reluctance to embroil the country in another war in the Middle East.
Instead, Trump opted to have US military cyber forces carry out a strike against military computer systems used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to control rocket and missile launchers, according to US officials.