Exxon Mobil Evacuates Foreign Staff In Iraqi Oilfield As Tensions Escalate

Exxon Mobil
South Oil Company chief Ihsan Abdul Jabbar speaks during an interview (Photo: Reuters / Essam al-Sudani)

Exxon Mobil is taking every possible precaution with its staff in Iraq amidst the ongoing tensions in the Middle East.  The Texas-based oil and gas company has reportedly evacuated its entire foreign staff from the West Qurna 1 oilfield in Iraq. Around 60 people were flown out to Dubai just days after the United States elevated its threat level following reports of the mobilization of Iran-backed militias.

Last week, the US announced that it was going to be withdrawing non-essential personnel from its embassy and consulates in Iraq. There were apparently reports of a possible threat from Iran-backed Iraqi Shi'ite militia, who reportedly were moving their missiles close to bases with US military personnel.

Despite the evacuation of its foreign staff, Exxon Mobile assured the public and Iraq that the production of its oilfield remains unaffected. Work on the field continues as the company still has Iraqi engineers and staff on site. Iraq's state-owned South Oil Company announced that the production on the facilities will still remain at 440,000 barrels per day.

In a statement released by South Oil Company, the evacuation was explained to be a precautionary and temporary measure. Exxon apparently does not think that there are any dangers to the facility, but they still want to ensure the safety of their foreign staff. The firm further explained that foreign engineers will continue to perform their duties remotely while being housed at one of their offices in Dubai. Most of the evacuated staff members were working as advisers, which mean that there shouldn't be any problems with them working off-site.

According to local media reports, staff members were evacuated in various phases late last week. Some members were flown straight to Dubai, while others were taken to a camp in the Basra province. Those who were taken to the camp were then sent to the airport over the weekend for evacuation. A private security firm was reportedly hired to oversee the entire evacuation process.

Exxon's evacuation comes at the heels of the rise in tensions between the United States and Iran. The United States had imposed stringent economic sanctions against Iran, while also threatening to increase its military presence in the region.

President Donald Trump recently mentioned that the country could be sending US troops to the region very soon. The US has also dispatched a number of military assets to the area, including the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. Iran has openly criticized the United States' actions, describing it as "psychological warfare."

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