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Old 06-19-2019, 04:48 AM
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Arrow Rockets strike near U.S.-linked oil installation and military bases in Iraq; 3 wounde

Rockets strike near U.S.-linked oil installation and military bases in Iraq; 3 wounded
By: Louisa Loveluck & Mustafa Salim - Washington Post - 6-19-19

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BAGHDAD — A rocket landed Wednesday on the edge of a compound housing staff from global oil giant ExxonMobil, wounding three people near Iraq’s southern city of Basra — the latest in a string of attacks on U.S.-linked targets in the region.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came shortly after Iraq’s military reported three other rocket attacks this week near bases housing U.S. forces.

Concerns are growing among Iraqi and Western officials over the potential for the country to be drawn into a standoff between the United States and Iran, after the Trump administration blamed Tehran for attacks on two tankers in the Persian Gulf.

Iran backs a handful of powerful militias in Iraq, where more than 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed as part of an ongoing mission to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

There are fears that if a conflict were to erupt between the United States and Iran, it would involve some of Tehran’s proxy militias in the region.

Iraq’s military ordered security agencies Wednesday to investigate who was behind the spate of attacks, which have caused little damage.

It said the rocket landed at dawn on the Burjesia residential compound west of Basra. An employee at the facility said that three Iraqi staffers from a local drilling company were being treated in hospital for light wounds.

ExxonMobil preemptively evacuated several dozen international staff members from the nearby West Qurna oil field last month. Wednesday’s attack came as they had just started to return, the local worker said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Iraq’s joint operations command also said that a Katyusha rocket that hit a base housing a small contingent of U.S. troops in the northern city of Mosul late Tuesday landed on open ground and caused no casualties.

The United States partially evacuated its embassy in Baghdad last month after the Trump administration accused Iran, without providing evidence, of supporting “imminent attacks” on U.S. personnel in the region. Days later, a rocket exploded less than a mile away.

In a statement Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi issued a veiled warning to Washington and Tehran, saying that foreign powers should not use Iraqi soil to settle scores. In the event of meaningful escalation, analysts and diplomats say, it is unclear how far Iraq’s government would be able to go to rein in some of the country’s militias.

About this writer: Louisa Loveluck is a reporter in The Washington Post's Beirut bureau, focusing on Syria and the wider Middle East. She was previously the Daily Telegraph's Cairo correspondent. Loveluck was The Post's 2016 Laurence Stern Fellow.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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