20 June, 2019
Wednesday morning, June 19th, a rocket hit near a housing complex on an Exxon Mobil oil site in Basra, Iraq. This rocket injured three Iraqi workers, and hit amid the rising tensions between Iran and the United States. The role that Iraq plays in the tumultuous relationship between the two countries has been tested in recent weeks, as Iraq has stated that they will not play sides in the conflict, and hope to act as a mediator. In May, 2019 Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said that Iraq would send delegations to Washington and Tehran to help alleviate tensions.
The Iraqi government is currently facing criticism, as officials have stated that the incident is an isolated event, which may not be true as this is the fourth rocket to hit near a US space in the last week. The previous three rockets landed near military housing bases for US forces. This explanation by the Iraqi government may be an attempt to ease the tensions that are playing out in the country, particularly as the US has removed all non-essential government personnel from the country. Exxon also moved some of their employees on the last month, moving some from Baghdad to Basra, and others to Dubai. Those that were moved from the capital to Basra were moved on the premise of safety concerns, but this could have been one explanation why the rockets targeted the second largest city, rather than the capital. Furthermore, these tensions in Basra demonstrate a potentially strategic attack, to escalate tensions between the US and Iran, which are playing out in Iraq.
Exxon Mobil is an American, multinational oil company, based out of Texas. Other oil companies operating in Basra include Royal Dutch Shell and Italian Eni S.p.A, both European companies. While no one had claimed responsibility for the rocket, it is difficult not to draw the correlation between rising regional tensions and the attack on the US based oil company. As events continue to play out, and more information is recovered on this rocket blast, Iraq, Iran and the United States tensions are likely to escalate, and the role that Iraq will take may be clarified. It is not clear what role Iraq will take as the tensions continue to rise between Iran and the US, and if, or who they will side with.