“The withdrawal of multiple employees — despite their small number — temporarily has nothing to do with the security situation or threats in the oilfields in southern Iraq, but it’s for political reasons,” Ghadhban added in a statement on Sunday.
ExxonMobil Iraq Limited (EMIL), an affiliate of the Texas-based ExxonMobil Corporation, signed an agreement with the South Oil Company of the Iraq Ministry of Oil in January 2010 to rehabilitate and redevelop the West Qurna I field in Iraq’s southern province of Basra, home to two other major oil fields of West Qurna 2 and Rumaila.
Ghadhban also said that he had sent a letter to ExxonMobil asking for the company to immediately return to work at the West Qurna I field, ahead of a meeting with the US oil company’s executives later this week.
According to the state-run Basra Oil Company, EMIL, which has employed 1,700 Iraqis and foreigners, withdrew its entire foreign staff, around 60 people, from the Arab country and flew them to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday.
It added on Saturday that there were “no indicators that companies operating the oil fields are facing any security threats,” adding that the unexpected move, however, would not affect production, project development, or planned maintenance in the oil field.
Basra is an important hub for oil exports and accounts for over 95 percent of Iraq’s government revenue.
The American oil company’s evacuation move came just a few days after the US State Department ordered the evacuation of non-emergency US government employees from the US Embassy in the capital, Baghdad, and its consulate in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, amid growing tensions between the US and Iran, Iraq’s neighbor to the east.
Tensions have been increasing between Washington and Tehran since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 historic nuclear deal with Iran that removed some of the US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The US also recently deployed an aircraft carrier, a bomber task force, and an assault ship to the Persian Gulf under the pretext that Iran poses an increased threat to the US.