Iran linked to rocket attack on US oil targets in southern Iraq

An Iraqi soldier stands next to a military vehicle at the entry of Zubair oilfield after a rocket struck the site of residential and operations headquarters of several oil companies at Burjesia area, in Basra, Iraq, on June 19, 2019. (REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani)
Updated 20 June 2019

Iran linked to rocket attack on US oil targets in southern Iraq

  • Fourth oil-related terrorist assault since Tehran’s threat to halt exports from Gulf
  • Three people were injured in Wednesday’s incident

BAGHDAD, Iraq:  Iran was accused of sowing further chaos on Wednesday when a rocket hit a site near Basra in southern Iraq used by US and other oil companies.

The attack came hours after three rockets landed in the Rumailah oil field in Basra, near a camp used by the US oil services company Baker Hughes.

It was the fourth oil-related terrorist attack since Tehran threatened to halt exports from the Arabian Gulf in response to US sanctions aimed at reducing Iran’s oil sales to zero.

Three people were injured in Wednesday’s incident, when a short-range Katyusha rocket hit a drilling site in the Burjesiya area near Basra, an operational area for oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell, Eni of Italy and the US giant ExxonMobil.

The finger of blame was immediately pointed at Iran-backed armed groups in the area, particularly Kata’ib Hezbollah. “They are equipped with this type of rocket, which is ubiquitous among the Iranian-supported militias,” security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik told Arab News.

TIMELINE OF TERROR

● July 21, 2018 Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says if Iran’s oil sales are impeded by sanctions, ‘no other country in the region will export oil either.’

● April 21, 2019 US says it will end sanctions exemptions allowing some countries to buy Iranian oil, with the aim of reducing its exports to zero.

● May 12 Four tankers — two Saudi, one Emirati and one Norwegian — are sabotaged with explosive mines off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE. ● May 14 Drone attacks on two oil pumping stations temporarily shut down pipeline from eastern Saudi Arabia to Yanbu port on the Red Sea.

● June 13 Two tankers, one Japanese and one Norwegian, are attacked in the Gulf of Oman, leaving one ablaze and both adrift.

● June 19 Rocket attack targets foreign oil installations near Basra in southern Iraq, where Iran-backed militias are active.

“The Islamic Republican Guard Corps has created a supply network for local militias that helped to build up a weapons stock around Basra. It is easily fed by new supplies from Iran because of the porous nature of the border between the two, both on land and at sea,” said Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC.

An Iraqi security source also blamed Iran-backed militias. “The team that launched the rocket is made up of more than one group and were well trained in missile launching,” he said.

The rocket was fired from farmland about 4 km away and landed 100 meters from part of the site used as a residence and operations center by Exxon. Company staff were flown to Dubai.

Abbas Maher, mayor of the nearby town of Zubair, said he believed Iran-backed groups had specifically targeted Exxon to “send a message” to the US.

“We cannot separate this from regional developments, meaning the US-Iranian conflict,” he said. “These incidents have political objectives.”

Meanwhile US investigators presented more evidence that Iran was behind last week’s tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman.

“The limpet mine used in the attack … bears a striking resemblance to Iranian mines already publicly displayed in Iranian military parades,” said US Navy Commander Sean Kido.


Former PM calls for overhaul of Turkey in challenge to Erdogan

Updated 5 min 12 sec ago

Former PM calls for overhaul of Turkey in challenge to Erdogan

  • Davutoglu said Turkey’s judiciary had turned into a mechanism “feared rather than trusted” and that its economy was in “deep crisis”
  • Without naming Erdogan, he sharply criticized the concentration of power around a leader who has ruled Turkey since early 2003

ANKARA: Turkey’s ex-premier Ahmet Davutoglu took aim at his former boss Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, saying the country was being held back by a concentration of power, economic crisis and an atmosphere of fear as he called for an overhaul of the political system.
“Those ruling Turkey have no agenda other than staying in power,” Davutoglu said as he announced his new party, which could further erode support for Erdogan after his ruling AKP suffered election setbacks in local elections earlier this year.
A day after applying to establish the breakaway Future Party, Davutoglu said Turkey’s judiciary had turned into a mechanism “feared rather than trusted” and that its economy was in “deep crisis.”
Davutoglu, 60, announced his resignation from the Islamist-rooted AKP in September, saying the party which has dominated Turkish politics for 17 years was no longer able to solve the country’s problems and was stifling internal debate.
“Despite all the pressure and the atmosphere of fear which they have tried to create...we have come together to set out a democratic and prosperous future for our country,” he said.
Davutoglu served as prime minister from 2014 to 2016, before falling out with the president and being replaced by another Erdogan loyalist as Turkey moved to a presidential system.
Without naming Erdogan, he sharply criticized the concentration of power around a leader who has ruled Turkey since early 2003, first as prime minister and then as president.
“The presidential system was constructed with the thought of transferring as much power as possible to the executive and increasing influence over the legislative and judiciary,” he said.
He said it was essential to fight corruption and guarantee the separation of powers, adding that efforts to control the judiciary must be seen as “the greatest of crimes.”
“We defend a democratic parliamentary system,” he added, calling for a new constitution.
Davutoglu resigned two months after former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan also left the AKP, citing deep differences. Babacan will announce his own rival political party within weeks, a source close to him said.
Polls show support for the new parties and their leaders in single percentage point figures, meaning they could pose little challenge to Erdogan and the AKP on their own.
However, after defeat in mayoral elections in Ankara and Istanbul this year, and with economic difficulties eroding his voter base, any loss of support could hit efforts to extend Erdogan’s rule. Elections are not scheduled until 2023.