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USA: Iraqi pipeline attacks



US. Officials concluded that drone attacks on the Saudi Arabian oil industry started in Iraq from Iraq and not Yemen in May, and voiced concern that Iranian allies in the region are trying to establish a new front in the conflict between Tehran and Washington open.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Iraqi Prime Minister to take steps to ensure that Iraq is not used as a new venue for attacks. The Iraqi leaders are questioning the US assessment and have asked the Trump administration for further evidence to support their allegations.

The May 14 drone strikes were originally from Yemen, where Houthi rebels had been suspected of damaging a large oil pipeline stretching hundreds of miles across Saudi Arabia. But US officials familiar with the intelligence services said the attacks originated in southern Iraq, most likely implying a strong presence of Iranian militia.

The United States sent a memo to the Iraqi officials, and Mr. Pompeo addressed the issue in a telephone conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, according to the people familiar with the discussions. US officials want Baghdad to do more to tame the Iranian-Allied militias that have gained power since they won the war against the Islamic State, including preventing them from using Iraqi territory as a launching pad for attacks against the Islamic State use the American military or its allies.

A satellite image shows pumping station No. 8 of Saudi Aramco near al-Duadmi, Saudi Arabia, on May 14 after a drone attack on the facility.


Photo:

Associated press

The attacks on the Saudi pipeline are among a series of incidents that have exacerbated the fear of a regional war, including the overthrow of an American surveillance drone by Iran and the sabotage of six merchant ships in the Gulf of Oman, for which the US blamed I ran. Washington also suspects Tehran's allies in Iraq over a missile that landed near the US embassy in Baghdad's green zone last month. Since then, rockets have been fired at various military bases and facilities in Iraq where US personnel are stationed.

The American assessment highlights the challenge facing the Iraqi government in the face of escalating regional tensions after the Trump government withdrew from the multinational nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 and imposed new sanctions on Tehran. Baghdad has tried to steer a middle ground between Washington and Tehran, but the Iranian-oriented militias are complicating this effort.

Iraqi officials demanded more information from the US on the allegation that the drones originated in their territory. See conclusive evidence, according to Iraqi sources, about the matter. Abdul-Mahdi said his country's intelligence services had found no evidence this week of involvement from Iraq.

An Iranian government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

United States. Officials would not discuss intelligence in detail, but they said the drone attacks were more sophisticated than those previously fired by the Houthi forces in Yemen.

The wrecks of the attacks showed that the drones were a different model and the explosives were a different species than those investigated in previous Houthi drone attacks in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis The embassy in Washington did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

After the invasion of Baghdad and Teheran by the Americans in Iraq in 2003, the archenemies Baghdad and Teheran have grown closer together, building up extensive trade relations, closer Shi'ite-Muslim religious relations and military cooperation.

"This raises questions about the ability of the Iraqi government to keep Iraq neutral in a regional crisis," said Michael Knights, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Iraq "President Barham Salih recently said that Iraq is not being used by America to attack Iran, but Iraq is already being used by Iran to attack its neighbors."

The attacks hit two Saudi oil pumping stations closer to the Iraqi border than the Yemeni. A fire was lit that slightly damaged a pumping station. Aramco, a state-owned Saudi oil company, temporarily suspended the east-west pipeline, which transports oil from Saudi Arabia's eastern province over a distance of more than 1,100 km to a large western port on the Red Sea.

Use of Iraq Instead of using Yemen as a launching pad for attacks in Saudi Arabia, this would make sense as there is no missile or drone defense from this side, Knights said. Drones coming from Yemen are being monitored more closely and may be disturbed by electronic warfare operations, although Houthi forces in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been increasingly successful in meeting targets in both countries.

The official Foreign Ministry summary of Mr. Pompeo's June 14 appeal to the Iraqi Prime Minister revealed little evidence that the issue was under discussion. The brief summary focused on the US conclusion that Iran was responsible for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman the day before. The statement vaguely referred to Mr. Pompeo's support for the "continued efforts of the Prime Minister to counter Iranian militia-threatened threats to the sovereignty of Iraq."

US, Saudi and Saudi officials are concerned about the increasing drone strikes in the Gulf region. So far, these concerns have focused mainly on Iran to provide the Houthi forces with the training and parts they need to make ever more effective drones against the Saudi Arabian capital, Aramco's large network of oil facilities and the main airports of the United Arab Emirates To build Emirates.

dismissed allegations that it armed Houthi troops in Yemen.

United Nations investigators said last year they had "strong signs" of Iran being the source of some Houthi missile and drone technology. They said that Iran had "not taken the necessary measures" to prevent drones and missile parts from Iran from being shipped to Yemen. However, they were unable to establish direct links between Iran and the Houthi insurgents.

Mr. Knights said the Houthis' claim to be responsible for an attack apparently carried out by Iranian-backed groups in Iraq shows that Iran is closer to the Houthis than many believe.

"This indicates that they are not a temporary partner of the Iranian security sector, but rather a real deputy who takes action against their own interests in favor of Iran and supports other Iranian-backed militias," he said.

Write to Isabel Coles at isabel.coles@wsj.com and Dion Nissenbaum at dion.nissenbaum@wsj.com


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