A rocket hit a site in southern Iraq used by foreign oil companies on Wednesday, including US energy giant ExxonMobil, wounding three people and threatening to further escalate US-Iran tensions in the region. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack near Iraq’s southern city of Basra, the fourth time in a week that rockets have struck near US installations.
Three previous attacks on or near military bases housing US forces near Baghdad and Mosul caused no casualties or major damage. None of those incidents were claimed. An Iraqi security source said it appeared that Iranbacked groups in southern Iraq were behind the Basra incident. “According to our sources, the team (that launched the rocket) is made up of more than one group and were well trained in missile launching,” the security source said. He said they had received a tip-off several days ago the US consulate in Basra might be targeted but were taken by surprise when the rocket hit the oil site.
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 United States. US-Iranian hostility has risen since President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and other world powers in May last year. Trump has since reimposed and extended US sanctions on Iran, forcing states to boycott Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own. Tehran has threatened to abandon the nuclear pact unless other signatories act to rein in the United States. The US face-off with Iran reached a new pitch following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf in May and June that Washington blames on Tehran. Iran denies any involvement. While the long-time foes say they do not want war, the United States has reinforced its military presence in the region and analysts say violence could nonetheless escalate. Some Western officials have said the recent attacks appear designed to show Iran could sow chaos if it wanted.