Iraqi president calls on country to stand firm amid spate of attacks on oil and gasfields

Barham Salih speaks out after another rocket hits gasfield in Kurdistan region, amid rising tension over forming new government

Iraq's President Barham Salih made a statement after a rocket landed near the Khor Mor gasfield in Sulaymaniyah. Reuters
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The recent spate of attacks on oil and gas plants in Iraq's Kurdistan Region is harmful to the country’s stability and economy, President Barham Salih said on Saturday.

His statement came hours after a rocket landed near the Khor Mor gasfield in Sulaymaniyah province, one of three that make up the Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

The government said the attack, the third since Wednesday, caused no casualties or interruption to operations at the field being developed by UAE energy company Dana Gas.

On Wednesday, two contractors were lightly wounded, Dana Gas said in a disclosure to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. The second attack took place on Friday.

No group has claimed responsibility for the firing of the missiles but they came amid an increase in rocket and drone attacks on oil and gas plants, as well as civilian and military sites, in the semi-autonomous region.

“The assaults that targeted oil and gasfields in Khor Mor and other areas are targeting the country’s stability and hitting the national economy,” said Mr Salih, who is from Sulaymaniyah.

“We have no other option, only to stand firm against these heinous criminal attempts."

Another senior Kurdish politician, former foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, blamed the attacks on “militia forces in Baghdad” — a reference to armed groups aligned with Iran.

“Their aim is to target the security and economy of Kurdistan Region and to make it kneel to their power,” Mr Zebari said.

In Washington, the US government condemned the attacks and called for an investigation. "These attacks are designed to undermine economic stability just as they seek to challenge Iraqi sovereignty, sow division, and intimidate," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

"They must be investigated and those responsible must be prosecuted," he added, reiterating US solidarity with the Iraqi people and commitment to its security and prosperity.

Tension has been running high in the country since national elections in October as Iraqi political factions squabble over forming the new government.

Moqtada Al Sadr, the Shiite cleric and political leader whose followers won the highest number of seats among Iraqi political groups, sought to form a majority government by teaming up with the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Sunni Sovereignty Alliance.

His rivals, comprising Iranian-backed parties and militias who suffered significant losses, are calling for a consensus government in a bid to protect their influence.

Several prominent groups with the backing of Tehran have accused the Kurds and Sunnis who joined Mr Al Sadr's alliance of increasing divisions among Shiites.

In March, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired 12 ballistic missiles at the Kurdish region, hitting the home of businessman Baz Karim, whose KAR Group operates the largest oil refinery in Iraqi Kurdistan among other businesses.

Tehran claimed the house was a "strategic centre" for Israel and that the attack was retaliation for an air strike in Syria allegedly carried out by Israel that killed two Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members. Iran did not provide evidence and the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad strongly denied the allegations.

The Khor Mor gasfield has vast reserves and the potential to meet not only local needs but also for export to international markets.

It is vital to the Kurdish region's plans to export natural gas to Europe through Turkey.

Updated: June 26, 2022, 3:35 PM