By Khalid Al-Ansary and Kadhim Ajrash
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Exxon’s operations were the target, the person said, asking not to be identified for lack of authority to speak with news media. The incident in Basra province injured three workers at an Iraqi drilling company, according to a government security bureau. Exxon evacuated 20 foreign employees, Sky News Arabia reported earlier, citing unidentified local officials.
Attacks on energy facilities, including a Saudi Arabian pipeline and several oil tankers, as well as a U.S. military buildup are stoking fears that the Middle East may be heading toward another conflict. The U.S. ordered its non-emergency government staff to leave Iraq last month amid increasing regional tensions that American officials blame on Iran.
While oil prices spiked immediately after the June 13 attacks on two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, crude is down over the past month on concerns over waning demand. Brent crude in London pared losses earlier in the day before dipping 0.4% lower to $61.88 a barrel as of 2:25 p.m. Dubai time. “A quite considerable ratcheting of tensions will be required to drive prices higher,” according to BloombergNEF.
Iraq’s Deputy Oil Minister Fayyad Al-Nima said the rocket wounded Iraqi workers and targeted a local company, not a foreign one. The government still hasn’t determined who is responsible for the attack. “God willing these events won’t be repeated,” Al-Nima told reporters in Baghdad.
The U.S. sent a warning to Iran through Swiss and Iraqi intermediaries against engaging American forces, General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday in Washington. “We’ve used them all to say ‘hands-off, don’t come after our forces,’” Selva said.
Exxon pulled about 80 people from Iraq last month, raising the ire of Iraq’s oil minister who said the decision was “unacceptable and unwarranted” because it had nothing to do with the security situation in the south of the country. The company returned some of its workers on May 31 after boosting security at the site.
An Exxon spokesman in Singapore wasn’t immediately able to comment. Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Co. didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Iraq, which has enjoyed relative calm after the Islamic State insurgency receded there in 2017, has suffered a spate of low-level attacks in recent weeks. A shell exploded near the U.S. embassy in May. Rockets on Tuesday hit an official compound in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and the Taji Military camp near Baghdad, both of which house American military advisers, according to local press reports.
Exxon operates the West Qurna-1 oil field in Basra, which pumps between 450,000 and 480,000 barrels a day. The region is responsible for the bulk of Iraq’s crude output.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which has operations near Exxon, said in a statement that it wasn’t “subject to the attack” and its output hasn’t been interrupted.