As Crude Oil Plunged, Middle East Conflict Delayed U.K.’s Covid-19 Response

By Mathew Carr

May 26, 2021 — LONDON: The U.K. government’s decision making leading up to the country’s pandemic lockdown in March last year was hampered by a request around March 12 from the U.S. administration under Donald Trump to support a decision to bomb the Middle East, according to Dominic Cummings, who advised U.K. PM Boris Johnson at the time.

Senior government officials and Johnson were juggling both of the acute issues that day, he said. The request for support, which was rejected, was one of the factors that delayed Britain’s decision to lockdown, Cummings testified in London. Lockdown measures came into force on March 26.

Unrest in the Middle East can boost oil prices, a bellwether for commodities and European Union carbon permits. Brent crude had already plunged 13% in the first 11 days of March and 24% in the year to date, as the Covid-19 health crisis spread. Oil demand plunged because of the pandemic and Brent ended down 22% in the month of March.

Rockets were fired at a camp used by coalition forces near Baghdad on March 11, killing two U.S soldiers and a British soldier: See below for the relevant section of Wikipedia’s timeline on the long-running Persian Gulf crisis and source links.

The U.S. is now considering lifting sanctions on Iran, as Brent trades at around $69 a barrel, more than two thirds higher than around $40 at the end of March last year:

A few relevant paragraphs from Wikipedia’s timeline. Link here:

On 13 February (2020), the U.S. Senate voted 55–45 to constrain Trump’s ability to wage war on Iran without congressional approval. The bipartisan vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution included eight Republican senators. Trump threatened to veto the resolution.[253] On the same day, a rocket hit an Iraqi base in Kirkuk that housed U.S. forces. No casualties were reported.[254]

On 11 March, Qasem Soleimani’s birthday, 15 Katyusha rockets struck Camp Taji, Iraq, killing two U.S. soldiers[255] and one British soldier from the Royal Army Medical Corps.[256][36][257][258] The attack left 12 other American soldiers, contractors and OIR coalition personnel (including a Polish soldier)[259] injured, five critically.[260] On 13 March after midnight, after a previous retaliatory operation, the U.S. launched air raids against Kata’ib Hezbollah facilities in Karbala and the Babylon area[261] near the Karbala International Airport; the strikes reportedly killed at least three Iraqi soldiers, two policemen and one civilian. 11 Iraqi soldiers were wounded as well as five Popular Mobilization Forces fighters.[262]

On 14 March, before 11:00 AM, another rocket attack struck Camp Taji; more than 24 107mm caliber rockets struck the coalition compound and the Iraqi Air defenses installation there, injuring three coalition soldiers and two Iraqi soldiers. Iraqi forces subsequently found seven Katyusha rocket launchers with 25 rockets armed but not launched nearby.[263]

On 16 March, the U.S. announced it would pull out from three of its eight bases on Iraq, amid continued tensions with the Iraqi government and Iran.

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