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Daily updates: Shells target U.S. Air Force base north of Baghdad

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Shells target U.S. Air Force base north of Baghdad

 



The Iraqi military says three mortar shells have hit an Iraqi Air Force base just north of Baghdad where U.S. soldiers are training Iraqi forces.

In a statement, Iraq’s military said the shelling early on June 15 ignited a small fire at Balad Air Base but did not result in any casualties.

The attack occurred amid rising tension in the Middle East between the United States and Iran, which intensified on June 13 after suspected Iranian attacks on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran has denied involvement.

In recent weeks, rockets of unknown origin have landed near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. In May, the U.S. dispatched additional air and naval forces to the region citing intelligence allegedly pointing to impending attacks orchestrated by Iran, including in Iraq.

The crisis is rooted in the U.S. withdrawal last year from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

Washington subsequently reimposed sanctions on Iran and has been pressuring other countries, including U.S. allies, to join the renewed sanctions.




Sadr denounces Turkish bombardments of Iraqi territory

 



Shiita cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on Baghdad to terminate its agreements with Ankara that allow military detachments of the latter to cross Turkey’s southern border into the Kurdistan Region and Iraq on grounds they are fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

In his tweets on Thursday, Sadr said “we condemn and denounce…Turkish bombardments of Iraqi territory, even if they are based on agreements; they are poor agreements and are meaningless.”

He added that Baghdad should prioritize the country’s sovereignty and “cancel the agreements,” work on ones that allow the bombing of “terrorists” not the “opposition.”

The remarks came as Turkish forces stationed over their southern border intensified air raids and ground operations against alleged PKK positions since Ankara’s “Operation Claw” started in late May.

On Wednesday, fighter jets struck a petrol station and a water project in the town of Amadiya (Amedi) in Duhok province.

In 2018, Turkey carried out military operations against PKK fighters based within the Kurdistan Region with continued regularity. Turkish forces have crossed into the region up to 20 kilometers deep in some areas to target the guerilla group, and bombardment from Turkish jets occasionally results in the death of Kurdish civilians unaffiliated to the PKK.

Each of Turkey, the United States, and the European Union had labelled the PKK as a “terrorist” group.




US exempts Iraq from oil-trade sanctions with Iran for three more months



The United States has allowed Iraq to import Iranian gas for its power grid for another three months by extending a waiver to sanctions - but insists that Baghdad seek alternative sources.

Iraq has had several extensions to the waiver first granted last year after Washington reimposed sanctions on Tehran's oil sector forbidding countries from purchasing Iranian energy.

"An additional 120-day waiver was granted to allow Iraq to continue to pay for electricity imports from Iran," the US State Department said in an emailed statement.

An Iraqi government source said the extension was given during a phone call between Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The State Department said the United States continued to insist on "diversifying energy imports away from Iran," however.

President Donald Trump's administration has said oil-rich Iraq must become more self-reliant for its electricity, including by harnessing gas energy and reducing flaring at oil production sites.

US energy giant General Electric is in the running to win a large share of multibillion-dollar contracts to rebuild Iraq's electricity system amid intense US lobbying efforts.

Washington reimposed sanctions on Iran's oil industry in November, citing concerns about its nuclear program and what it said was its meddling in the Middle East.

Iraqi officials have said they might need years to wean the country of Iranian power.

Iraq relies heavily on Iranian gas to feed several power stations, importing roughly 1.5 billion standard cubic feet per day via pipelines in the south and east.

Washington wants to roll back Iranian influence in the Middle East, including in Iraq, where Tehran holds broad sway over politics and trade.

Although Iraq has one of the world's largest natural gas reserves, it has moved slowly to develop them and has relied on Iran to supply it with gas and electricity. 




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This article is progressing, stay tuned for more updates.

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